Our Work

Through the generous support of our members and help from PEC's partners, a lot of great things have happened this year! We've pulled together this quick list of some of the highlights from 2019 throughout our 9-county region.

Through the generous support of our members and help from PEC's partners, a lot of great things have happened this year!
Skip ahead to your county: ALBEMARLE  CLARKE  CULPEPER  FAUQUIER  GREENE  LOUDOUN  MADISON  ORANGE  RAPPAHANNOCK   


Across the Piedmont

Blue Ridge to the Bay 
PEC has spent 2019 aligning many of our existing conservation efforts into an initiative to protect water quality from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay. Many agricultural lands in our middle region are increasingly under threat from either from residential development or from utility-scale solar facilities. Our work raises the profile of the importance of the Rapidan and Rappahannock Rivers, which provide drinking water to urban communities downstream.

PEC has been working with the American Battlefield Trust and local partners like Clark Hall of the Brandy Station Foundation to put more land around Brandy Station and other battlefields in Culpeper, Madison, and Orange under conservation easement, including working farms. The quality of the soils and the proximity to markets in Northern Virginia and the Washington DC metro region, combined with the location near the Rappahannock River, mean that there are multiple conservation values at play.

Montpelier Easement
PEC was excited to partner with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Montpelier Foundation to conserve 1,024 acres at James Madison's Montpelier this summer. The easement protects the land around Montpelier’s historic core and builds upon the previously conserved 915 acres at this landmark site. More than two-thirds of the property is now protected with a conservation easement.


Photo by Aaron Watson


The Community Farm at Roundabout Meadows
As of Spring 2019, the PEC Community Farm at Roundabout Meadows is up and running! Farm manager Dana Melby was able to work with local contractors to install deer fencing on 8 acres, purchase a much-needed tractor, built a small run-in shed to store equipment and materials, install a drip irrigation system, and begin cultivation. This past summer, we were able to donate more than 4,000 pounds of produce to our partner Loudoun Hunger Relief with the help of 171 volunteers who contributed 544 hours of labor. 

In October, we celebrated the one-year anniversary of groundbreaking at The Community Farm at Roundabout Meadows by inviting the Loudoun community to visit the farm for a Family Day. Before the end of the year, we plan to add a greenhouse which will allow us to increase our offerings to the community by creating a space for us to germinate seeds on-site, extend our growing season, and provide us with yet another educational tool for aspiring farmers. 

Blue Ridge Conservation Alliance (BRCA)
Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Downstream Project, and PEC worked with five steering committee members to build the Blue Ridge Conservation Alliance, a coalition of partners that work along and around the Blue Ridge mountains from Front Royal to Harpers Ferry. When established in 2013, BRCA received instant-support from organizations that wanted to have an outlet for networking, exchanging information and collaborating. BRCA hosted workshops and plenary meetings that provided those opportunities at various places around the Blue Ridge. Although there was a lull in programming, the steering committee spent 2017 brainstorming and making updates to the BRCA operations and strategic plan. In 2018, BRCA was officially re-unveiled and hosted three partner workshops. The Alliance received a capacity strengthening grant from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and a technical assistance grant from the National Park Service. 2020 will be a busy year of outreach, meetings and workgroups to help establish a network of partners and further stewardship and conservation efforts. 

Larson Garden Pollinator Study/Warrenton Garden Tour
The Larson Garden at PEC’s headquarters in Warrenton continues to demonstrate the beauty and resiliency of native plants. Just two years after planting the garden, it has filled in robustly and provides a large area of habitat for pollinators. PEC staff and volunteers have continued to inventory the pollinators that are attracted to the garden, building on two years of previous data. In May, PEC hosted the Warrenton Garden Club during Historic Garden Week. We provided tours of both the sustainability features of 45 Horner Street and the Larson Garden to over 300 visitors. 


Photo by Kathy Marmet

Route 50 Conservation Initiative
To continue to protect open spaces in rural Loudoun, PEC’s staff and board members are working together to engage property owners along Route 50 in an effort to protect the area from Aldie to Upperville in perpetuity. We hosted a soft launch of this initiative at Green Garden, a beautiful, historic estate in Upperville, VA, where over 50 landowners attended and interacted with PEC’s conservation and land use teams. Additionally, we invited several landowners in the neighborhood who have already been through the easement process so they could share their experiences firsthand. This event served as an advocacy outreach event for land conservation in the region and a soft launch for an intensive, collaborative conservation effort. We intend to work alongside like-minded organizations, such as the Land Trust of Virginia and members of the Blue Ridge Conservation Alliance, to further protect this portion of Virginia’s northern Piedmont. 


Loudoun

The Loudoun Comprehensive Plan
All winter and spring, we focused on scrutinizing the working draft of the 2020-2040 plan to guide Loudoun land use, conservation, transportation and related policies, as well as engaging with key constituencies. In addition to encouraging participation in formal public hearings, PEC held 13 public briefings with over 250 attendees around the County, reaching out to citizens and leaders from every part of Loudoun. PEC also sustained an email and social media campaign that reached thousands of people. Thanks to an extraordinarily high level of citizen participation across the County, Loudoun’s leaders heard loud and clear the need to focus growth and protect the County’s rural areas. 

The final plan that was passed on June 20 includes a dramatically reduced development plan for the Transition Policy Area, from 19,000 housing units to 2,100 housing units. Additionally, the plan incorporates key priorities for conservation and connectivity of trails and public access. PEC remains engaged on the next phase, the update of the zoning ordinance to implement the Comprehensive Plan policies, and has been alerting and organizing constituent groups to be involved to ensure the ordinance accomplishes the goals of plan policies.

The Community Farm at Roundabout Meadows
As of Spring 2019, the PEC Community Farm at Roundabout Meadows is up and running! Farm manager Dana Melby was able to work with local contractors to install deer fencing on 8 acres, purchase a much-needed tractor, built a small run-in shed to store equipment and materials, install a drip irrigation system, and begin cultivation. This past summer, we were able to donate more than 4,000 pounds of produce to our partner Loudoun Hunger Relief with the help of 171 volunteers who contributed 544 hours of labor. 

In October, we celebrated the one-year anniversary of groundbreaking at The Community Farm at Roundabout Meadows by inviting the Loudoun community to visit the farm for a Family Day. Before the end of the year, we plan to add a greenhouse that will allow us to increase our offerings to the community by creating a space for us to germinate seeds on-site, extend our growing season, and provide us with yet another educational tool for aspiring farmers. 



Old Carolina Road Trail @ Roundabout Meadows
In 2019, PEC and NOVA Parks are pleased to announce that we have worked collaboratively to open a walking trail that follows the Old Carolina Road bed that marks the property line between NOVA Parks Mt. Zion Historic Park and our Roundabout Meadows property. The public trail would not have been possible without the energetic support of the Fauquier / Loudoun Garden Club (FLGC) and the Oak Spring Foundation, both of which have brought their energy, support, and expertise to our efforts to design a trail that is in harmony with the natural environment respects the roadbed’s unique history.   

Gilberts Corner Marketplace
This year, we acquired a 30-acre property at the northeast corner of Gilberts Corner that is home to a popular farmers market. PEC plans to continue to use the property as a hub that features our agricultural bounty, along with maintaining the presence of vendors who have been selling products for, in some cases, 30 years. In addition to being a farm market site, Wegmeyer’s Farm will continue to lease the farm fields on the property for its annual pick-your-own strawberries and pumpkin operations.

Thanks to the support we received from our annual gala, we plan to celebrate the public’s support of the farmers market and the property’s unique history and increase our offerings to the community by stabilizing the 1920s-era building that served as a gas station and general store over the years. Our first step is to engage local historic restoration experts in evaluating the costs required to transform the building into a safe space for market visitors while maintaining its historic character. 

Loudoun County Conservation Workshops
PEC hosted five outreach events throughout the County that educated landowners about conservation opportunities available to them. In collaboration with the Catoctin Creek Fund Advisory Committee, PEC hosted three events that focused on conservation and land management technical assistance, cost-share programs and funding opportunities. During the event in May, conservation partners presented their programs and practices to a group and talked with attendees afterward. In partnership with the Unison Preservation Society, PEC also hosted a panel of organizations to discuss conservation programs, welcoming attendees to talk one-on-one with organizations and collect information first-hand.

Goose Greek Initiative 
PEC has initiated an innovative financing tool to help agricultural landowners implement land management practices to improve water quality, such as stream fencing and riparian buffers. Through a new revolving loan fund, eligible landowners in the Goose Creek watershed can receive up-front financing for Agricultural Best Management Practices (Ag BMPs). In partnership with the John Marshall Soil and Water Conservation District, PEC is working with a landowner on our first revolving loan project to be completed this fall.



Banbury Cross
Banbury Cross is the first major by-right subdivision application in at least 10 years in the AR-2 Rural Policy Area to move forward. It sets a precedent for other developers who may contemplate larger scale residential subdivision opportunities in the area. PEC remains concerned with the unnecessary impacts of intensive rural housing development associated with the proposal. There are several outstanding issues that need to be carefully evaluated and considered. Several of the proposed residential lots are located within hydric soils that support wetland functions for food webs and wildlife habitat and several lots contain areas with Very Steep Slopes that can create future erosion and flooding issues and would be in violation of Loudoun’s Steep Slope ordinance. The application also does not include an approved Jurisdictional Letter from the Army Corps of Engineer for wetlands on site. 

There are several areas of concern that need to be carefully assessed, so we have been working together with local partners to look more closely at Loudoun’s Zoning Ordinance and subdivision regulations. The historic and scenic landscapes in and around Middleburg are important economic resources. The viewsheds surrounding the town serve as valuable tourist attractions themselves. We believe that future housing development should encourage local architectural design and recommend situating the lots in lower elevations to minimize the impact on Middleburg’s pastoral landscape.

Route 50 Conservation Initiative
To continue to protect open spaces in rural Loudoun, PEC’s staff and board members are working together to engage property owners along Route 50 in an effort to protect the area from Aldie to Upperville in perpetuity. We hosted a soft launch of this initiative at Green Garden, a beautiful, historic estate in Upperville, VA, where over 50 landowners attended and interacted with PEC’s conservation and land use teams. Additionally, we invited several landowners in the neighborhood who have already been through the easement process so they could share their experiences firsthand. This event served as an advocacy outreach event for land conservation in the region and a soft launch for an intensive, collaborative conservation effort. We intend to work alongside like-minded organizations, such as the Land Trust of Virginia and members of the Blue Ridge Conservation Alliance, to further protect this portion of Virginia’s northern Piedmont. 

Emerald Ribbons and Trails
Emerald Ribbons, the county-wide trails system concept envisioned by partners in the Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition and PEC, was officially moved forward in February after the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the Parks, Recreation and Open Space Board to work with our organizations to develop an implementation plan. On August 4, PEC became one of twelve members of the Linear Parks and Trails committee (LPAT), which consists of stakeholders with a variety of influence and expertise including Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and Bike Loudoun. PEC presented six case studies of similar trail systems in Virginia and submitted suggestions on ways Loudoun County could replicate their success. With these and other considerations, the committee is developing a Scope of Work for next steps in implementation. This includes a framework for a contractor, incorporating more stakeholders, involving the community, and consider land use policy opportunities. 

PEC continues to work with the Emerald Ribbons committee to ensure our messaging and vision for LPAT is clear and consistent, including the integral wildlife corridor and water quality component, in addition to adequate and responsible public access. PEC is vocal about ensuring potential trail opportunities in new development are not missed during this process.

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Fauquier

Rural Lands Plan Update
July 11, 2019 marked a big win for conservation policies in Fauquier with a potential shift toward weaker land use planning being resisted. The vote was close and would not have been achieved without engagement from citizens getting involved and speaking up. The Board of Supervisors received 52 letters in favor of Version A of the plan, one letter in support of either Version, and four letters in support of not updating the plan at all. The Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to adopt Version A of the Rural Lands Plan amendments with Mary Leigh McDaniel, Holder Trumbo and Rick Gerhardt in support of Version A. This version called for a doubling down of the existing, effective policies and a recognition that agricultural, historic, and natural resources are the foundation of tourism and quality of life in Fauquier County. 



Sanctuary at Barrel Oak
On October 17 the Rural Lands Plan was put to the test. The Planning Commission was tasked with deciding if a restaurant, hotel, and event venue would be an acceptable use of a 50-acre residential property in rural zoning next to the Barrel Oak Winery and Farm Taphouse. They voted 3-2 to recommend denial with Planning Commissioners for Marshall, Scott, and Cedar Run Districts in the majority. Commissioner Lee representing Marshall District said he was heartened by the number of times speakers referred to the County’s rural lands chapter of the comprehensive plan, which he said is intended to preserve the County’s “natural and cultural heritage.” This application still needs to go before the Board for final decision. 

Sustainable Landscaping Workshop 
PEC’s seventh annual Sustainable Landscaping Workshop was held on September 29 at our Warrenton office. There were around 50 attendees with the majority having attended for the first time. We welcomed speakers from Hill House Native Plant Farm and Nursery, Virginia Department of Forestry, Virginia Cooperative Extension, and John Marshall Soil and Water Conservation District, all who educated attendees about sustainable landscaping practices they can adopt around their home. To conclude, our own Celia Vuocolo gave a tour of the Larson Garden, and Hill House Native Plant Farm and Nursery held a small native plant sale on the back patio for those who wanted to start planting right away. 

Managing Fill Dirt and Debris Disposal in Rural Areas 
As construction picks up in the region, many of our localities are struggling with fill dirt and inert debris dump sites popping up in rural areas. On May 29, 2019, PEC partnered with the Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC) and Rappahannock Rapidan Regional Commission to host a workshop on this complex issue which was attended by 60 representatives from private industry, state agencies, and local government. The agenda included speakers from PEC, NVRC, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

Following this workshop we spoke with representatives from the Department of Environmental Quality and interviewed residents who are directly impacted by this issue. We wrote an article titled ‘A Dirty Secret: How Construction Waste Is Making Its Way Onto Rural Lands’ to help get the word out about what is happening and the need for state and local solutions. 

Larson Garden Pollinator Study/Warrenton Garden Tour
The Larson Garden at PEC’s headquarters in Warrenton continues to demonstrate the beauty and resiliency of native plants. Just two years after planting the garden, it has filled in robustly and provides a large area of habitat for pollinators. PEC staff and volunteers have continued to inventory the pollinators that are attracted to the garden, building on two years of previous data. In May, PEC hosted the Warrenton Garden Club during Historic Garden Week. We provided tours of both the sustainability features of 45 Horner Street and the Larson Garden to over 300 visitors. 

Rappahannock River Outreach and Public Access 
Through the combined efforts of many partners, including PEC, the County has fully embraced a plan for a river trail along the Rappahannock River. In April, the County opened a new public park near Orlean called the Riverside Preserve and in October, created a beta version of a Civil War River Trail Map app. We continue to advocate strongly for the County to fund the completion of the Rappahannock Station Battlefield Park and a public put in/take out point on the river in Remington. We are also working with partners to identify and establish additional access points along the river to accommodate a variety of recreational users and trips.

Goose Greek Initiative 
PEC has initiated an innovative financing tool to help agricultural landowners implement land management practices to improve water quality, such as stream fencing and riparian buffers. Through a new revolving loan fund, eligible landowners in the Goose Creek watershed can receive up-front financing for Agricultural Best Management Practices (Ag BMPs). In partnership with the John Marshall Soil and Water Conservation District, PEC is working with a landowner on our first revolving loan project to be completed this fall.



Banbury Cross
Banbury Cross is the first major by-right subdivision application in at least 10 years in the AR-2 Rural Policy Area to move forward. It sets a precedent for other developers who may contemplate larger scale residential subdivision opportunities in the area. PEC remains concerned with the unnecessary impacts of intensive rural housing development associated with the proposal. There are several outstanding issues that need to be carefully evaluated and considered. Several of the proposed residential lots are located within hydric soils that support wetland functions for food webs and wildlife habitat and several lots contain areas with Very Steep Slopes that can create future erosion and flooding issues and would be in violation of Loudoun’s Steep Slope ordinance. The application also does not include an approved Jurisdictional Letter from the Army Corps of Engineer for wetlands on site. 

There are several areas of concern that need to be carefully assessed, so we have been working together with local partners to look more closely at Loudoun’s Zoning Ordinance and subdivision regulations. The historic and scenic landscapes in and around Middleburg are important economic resources. The viewsheds surrounding the town serve as valuable tourist attractions themselves. We believe that future housing development should encourage local architectural design and recommend situating the lots in lower elevations to minimize the impact on Middleburg’s pastoral landscape.

Route 50 Conservation Initiative
To continue to protect open spaces in rural Loudoun, PEC’s staff and board members are working together to engage property owners along Route 50 in an effort to protect the area from Aldie to Upperville in perpetuity. We hosted a soft launch of this initiative at Green Garden, a beautiful, historic estate in Upperville, VA, where over 50 landowners attended and interacted with PEC’s conservation and land use teams. Additionally, we invited several landowners in the neighborhood who have already been through the easement process so they could share their experiences firsthand. This event served as an advocacy outreach event for land conservation in the region and a soft launch for an intensive, collaborative conservation effort. We intend to work alongside likeminded organizations, such as the Land Trust of Virginia and members of the Blue Ridge Conservation Alliance, to further protect this portion of Virginia’s northern Piedmont. 

PEC’s Julian Scheer Fauquier Land Conservation Fund
PEC’s Julian Scheer Fauquier Land Conservation Fund hosted two Farm and Land Conservation Workshops for Fauquier farmers and landowners to learn about the variety of local conservation options available to them, such as conservation easements, Purchase of Development Rights (PDR), farm plans, fencing cost-share, riparian buffers, habitat restoration and more. These workshops highlight the work of local conservation partners, including Fauquier County Agricultural Development, Virginia Department of Forestry, John Marshall Soil and Water Conservation District, and USDA-Natural Resource Conservation Service. 

In November 2019, the Fund’s governing committee hosted a Southern Fauquier Bus Tour that visited many of the region’s historic, scenic, and working farmlands. The tour educated local funders and PEC board members about the longstanding success of conservation easements and the PDR program in Fauquier County to protect natural resources and farmland alike. The tour included stops at Cool Lawn Farm, Messick’s Farm Market, and many colonial and Civil War-era historic sites that define the landscape of Fauquier County.

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Clarke

Clarke County Fall Supper
In October, some of PEC’s friends and board members in Clarke County hosted a dinner to raise funds for the Clarke County Land Conservation Fund. In recognition of challenges that the County faces, PEC established the Clarke County Land Conservation Fund to protect at-risk properties in Clarke County primarily through the acquisition of properties and conservation easements. Since its establishment in 2006, the Fund has contributed more than $400,000 towards the protection of 774.40 acres in Clarke County; approximately 667 of those acres are held in easement by the Clarke Country Conservation Easement Authority. We are excited to share that through this event, we raised over $50,000 for continued conservation efforts. We thank our generous hosts of the event who underwrote the dinner expenses. Thanks to them, 100% of the proceeds raised from the event will go to direct conservation efforts in Clarke County.

Clarke County Conservation Fair
This year, PEC organized the 12th annual Clarke Conservation Fair at the Powhatan School, which included all six 4th grade classes from Clarke public schools and two 4th grade classes from Powhatan. Eight organizations, including Trout Unlimited and Lord Fairfax Soil and Water District, hosted stations outside that educated students about conservation through interactive programs. At the event, PEC hosted a station with information about soil health. 



Powhatan Water Quality Curriculum
In June, Powhatan School received funding through the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund grant to purchase stream monitoring equipment so they can incorporate stream monitoring into their curriculum. PEC led drafting the proposal, partnering with a science teacher at Powhatan. As one deliverable of the grant, PEC hosted a stream monitoring training and certification for Powhatan teachers. 

Blue Ridge Water Quality Project
In coordination with the updated Water Resource Plan, Clarke County is partnering with Friends of the Shenandoah River (FOSR) and PEC to conduct water quality monitoring and outreach along the Blue Ridge Mountains. FOSR is conducting bacteria testing at six select sites and compiling results to determine the health and impairments of waterways. In addition, PEC will start conducting macroinvertebrate monitoring next year at select sites. PEC will host two workshops at the Shenandoah University Cool Spring Campus. The first workshop will invite residents to learn about water quality in the area, water-friendly stewardship practices, and about the Blue Ridge project. Attendees will have a hands-on opportunity to try macroinvertebrate monitoring. The second workshop will focus on unveiling water quality results, potential impairments, and funding opportunities to help landowners implement more water-friendly land management practices.

Blue Ridge Conservation Alliance (BRCA)
Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Downstream Project, and PEC worked with five steering committee members to build the Blue Ridge Conservation Alliance, a coalition of partners that work along and around the Blue Ridge mountains from Front Royal to Harpers Ferry. When established in 2013, BRCA received instant-support from organizations that wanted to have an outlet for networking, exchanging information and collaborating. BRCA hosted workshops and plenary meetings that provided those opportunities at various places around the Blue Ridge. Although there was a lull in programming, the steering committee spent 2017 brainstorming and making updates to the BRCA operations and strategic plan. In 2018, BRCA was officially re-unveiled and hosted three partner workshops. The Alliance received a capacity strengthening grant from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and a technical assistance grant from the National Park Service. 2020 will be a busy year of outreach, meetings and workgroups to help establish a network of partners and further stewardship and conservation efforts.

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Rappahannock

Providing Community Conservation Support through PEC’s Krebser Fund
PEC’s Krebser Fund for Rappahannock County Conservation was established in 2003 to support conservation easements, environmental stewardship, and educational activities in Rappahannock County. In 2014, the Rappahannock County Conservation Alliance merged with the Krebser Fund to pursue projects with their shared mission. To date, PEC has invested approximately $300,000 through the Krebser Fund in various land conservation, land stewardship, and public outreach projects that serve to enhance the rural and scenic value of Rappahannock County, as well as to protect and restore its land and water resources. Here are a few projects the Krebser Fund has supported in the past year:

Downshielding Lights for Dark Skies
For the last two years, the Krebser Fund has contributed to Rappahannock League for Environmental Protection’s Dark Skies Initiative with a total of $20,000 in matching contributions through 2021. As a part of this initiative, County residents are encouraged to voluntarily reduce their use of artificial light and conserve energy in order to keep the scenic viewshed natural. 


Photo by Quyen Ha


Rappahannock Elementary School Outdoor Classroom
PEC’s Krebser fund awarded $20,000 to RappFLOW for the Rappahannock Elementary School Courtyard Project, to build an outdoor Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics (STEAM) classroom. The outdoor classroom remodel included the renovation to a STEAM classroom, a pavilion with outdoor desks and seating, raised garden beds, a greenhouse, native plant landscaping, and a meditation labyrinth. 

Rappahannock Co. Virginia Agricultural Cost Share & Financial Aid with Culpeper SWCD 
Culpeper Soil and Water District (CSWCD) is being supported with a $50,000 Krebser Fund match that will help landowners in Rappahannock implement Virginia Agricultural Best Management Practices for farm management. Funding will reduce the cost to landowners of installing fencing to protect riparian areas or improving rotational grazing systems. This cost-sharing program is ongoing through 2020, and interested participants should contact CSWCD for more information. 

Environmental Stewardship at Rappahannock County Park
Rappahannock County Recreational Facilities Authority has been leading the way for many conservation themed events and landscaping at the Rappahannock County Park, in Washington. This past year, PEC and RCRFA hosted Rush River Family Fishing Day (June 8) and Rappahannock Conservation Day (October 20). RCRFA is now supported by PEC’s Krebser Fund to complete a Master Plan for the park that will bring more native plants and trees to the park, new and improved trails, as well as work to remove the invasive species in an effort to beautify and enhance the County Park. 

Restoring Trout Streams
Much of the trout stream habitat has become impaired as a result of driveway and road culverts that act as barriers to fish passage. PEC worked with private landowners along Bolton Branch near Shenandoah National Park to reconnect more than one mile of Eastern Brook Trout habitat through replacing a driveway culvert with an open-span bridge. PEC is leading the way in fish passage for the Piedmont, and is working with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and VDOT’s Culpeper District to design and build new, fish-friendly structures at two Rappahannock County pilot project locations: Bolton Branch at Mill Hill Road, and Piney River at Sycamore Ridge Road. 

Headwater Stream Initiative
PEC, Friends of the Rappahannock, Virginia Department of Forestry and CSWCD have worked to provide free technical service, native trees and planting materials to help landowners establish forested riparian buffers in the Rappahannock-Rapidan River watershed. In Rappahannock County, PEC and partners worked alongside a total of 55 local schools and community volunteers to complete four projects in 2019. This year’s plantings included native hardwoods and the new addition of native loblolly pines, totaling 3,650 trees planted. 


Photo by Marco Sanchez

Impact of Cellular Communications Towers
PEC participated in public debates over the siting and design of two cellular communications towers proposed for the U.S. Rt. 522 corridor between Sperryville and the Culpeper-Rappahannock County line at Woodville and Scrabble. Thanks to the input of several concerned citizens, the original proposals for “lattice” type construction have been redesigned by the applicant to be monopoles; public review continues as to need and specific location.

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Culpeper

Purchase of Development Rights
A great success for conservation in the county, Culpeper’s Board of Supervisors approved an appropriation of $100,000 for its Purchase of Development Rights program as part of its FY2020 budget. The appropriation was induced by a $100,000 challenge grant provided by The Volgenau Foundation for PEC’s Rappahannock-Rapidan Conservation Initiative. In turn, the $200,000 can be matched 1:1 by state conservation funds. These funds will be used to purchase conservation easements of working farmland in Culpeper. 

Update on Utility-Scale Solar 
The Cricket Solar, LLC application — an approximately 80-megawatt/1,500-acre facility -- was officially withdrawn in August. Despite multiple site plan revisions to the original submission, the applicant did not adequately addressed citizen concerns nor effectively mitigate impacts to natural and historic resources. This application process serves as a case study for future solar developers, as it is an effective example of improper utility-scale solar siting. Although we are proud to have assisted the community throughout the application process, we remain dedicated to the notion that, when properly sited and appropriately sized, utility-scale solar has a place in the Commonwealth's energy mix.

Subsequent to the withdrawal of the Cricket application, the Board of Supervisors updated the County’s Utility Scale Solar Facility Development Policy in October. This unanimously-approved update included, but was not limited to, the following revisions: (a) adopting a county-wide target of 240-megawatts or 2,400-acres of utility-scale solar; (b) setting single project size to 300-acres of panels; and (c) limiting mass grading to 50 acres at a time.


Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program

Red Ace Data Center Rezoning
The County approved an approximately 84-acre rezoning alongside the Route-29/Route-3 interchange, in order to accommodate Red Ace Data Center. The parcels were generally zoned for commercial services (CS), previously allowing for a shopping mall, which would have likely caused transportation impacts greater than that of a data center. We ultimately supported the rezoning, as the associated land was slated for development and was located in the Lovers Lane Technology overlay. However, we spoke up during the public meeting process to address concerns related to wetlands impacts, buffering and screening, and traffic impacts. The rezoning was approved and many of the points we addressed were incorporated into the proffer statement for the application.

Including Historic Resources in the Comprehensive Plan
The Planning Commission has been working on the Draft 2020 Comprehensive Plan throughout 2019. PEC has weighed in multiple times, in regards to including historic resources in the County’s maps. Specifically, there appears to be a large data gap associated with the Areas of Historic Importance maps; included to document the geographic location of historic sites in the County. It appears that the County will include language to update these maps in the future, however the County does not plan on updating the maps to be included in the 2020 Comprehensive Plan. Mapping resources are extremely important when making land use decisions, as they clearly document the location of important County resources. Without proper mapping documentation, these resources could be impacted.

Rapidan River and Clarks Mountain Rural Historic District
The Rapidan River area from Route 15 to Morton’s Ford has an incredibly rich history. This area, largely defined by the river, reflects layers of history beginning with use by the Monacan Indians, early settlement and plantations, the development of the railroad, diversified agriculture, and the Civil War encampments and battle at Morton’s Ford. For this reason, PEC is seeking formal recognition of this landscape, encompassing some 40,000 acres in Orange, Madison and Culpeper counties, as a Rural Historic District. The proposed district has been deemed eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Survey work continues on the aptly named Rapidan River and Clarks Mountain Rural Historic District. The recognition is significant. But to be placed on the register, the individual properties within the boundaries of the district have to be surveyed to identify any significant resources. As well, the majority of residents within the boundaries have to support its creation prior to any final nomination. There will be public meetings to inform the community about the district and the process for nomination in the upcoming months. Stay tuned for dates and times. 

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Orange

Connecting Gordonsville
PEC is working with residents and businesses to expand and refurbish Verling Park in downtown Gordonsville, and create a network of trails connecting Gordonsville to other parts of the Madison-Barbour Rural Historic District, such as James Madison’s Montpelier. We reached a milestone in 2019 with the purchase of another property adjacent to the park that will allow for the park’s expansion.

Montpelier Easement
PEC was excited to partner with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Montpelier Foundation to conserve 1,024 acres at James Madison's Montpelier this summer. The easement protects the land around Montpelier’s historic core and builds upon the previously conserved 915 acres at this landmark site. More than two-thirds of the property is now protected with a conservation easement.

Agricultural Initiative Involvement
The Orange County Chamber of Commerce initiated an Agricultural Initiative over the past year, which has included four strategy meetings. Amongst other local, state, and federal entities (e.g., Farm Bureau, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger, Senator Mark Warner, United States Department of Agriculture, the Town of Orange, Town of Gordonsville, Orange County Public Schools), PEC has served as an ongoing stakeholder. Currently, our main focus is conducting a feasibility study for an Orange County Farmers Market. 

Congressional Tour 
PEC was fortunate to have the opportunity to share regional conservation success stories with Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger (District 7) on a tour of Orange and Culpeper counties in July. The tour spanned from the Town of Gordonsville to Messick’s Farm Market in southern Fauquier and included stops at Verling Park to discuss trail connectivity, Clarks Mountain to discuss the region’s watersheds and viewsheds, the Rapidan River, and various farmsteads under conservation easement. Rep. Spanberger serves on the House Agriculture Committee and is the Chair of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry.


Photo by PEC staff

Riparian Buffers
In collaboration with the Friends of the Rappahannock and the Arbor Day Foundation, PEC assisted multiple Orange County residents with native plantings alongside agricultural waterways, including a large planting along Beaver Run, where 900 trees and scrubs were planted on three acres. The Healthy Watersheds project seeks to promote the proper conservation of forested land to promote the health of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

Rapidan River and Clarks Mountain Rural Historic District
The Rapidan River area from Route 15 to Morton’s Ford has an incredibly rich history. This area, largely defined by the river, reflects layers of history beginning with use by the Monacan Indians, early settlement and plantations, the development of the railroad, diversified agriculture, and the Civil War encampments and battle at Morton’s Ford. For this reason, PEC is seeking formal recognition of this landscape, encompassing some 40,000 acres in Orange, Madison and Culpeper counties, as a Rural Historic District. The proposed district has been deemed eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Survey work continues on the aptly named Rapidan River and Clarks Mountain Rural Historic District. The recognition is significant. But to be placed on the register, the individual properties within the boundaries of the district have to be surveyed to identify any significant resources. As well, the majority of residents within the boundaries have to support its creation prior to any final nomination. There will be public meetings to inform the community about the district and the process for nomination in the upcoming months. Stay tuned for dates and times.

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Greene

Conservation for the Future
This year, PEC staff assisted James “Goo” Eddins with the donation of a conservation easement on approximately 124 acres in Greene County. The property has been in Goo’s family for over a century and is almost completely surrounded by other protected lands. The property also has approximately 3,000 feet of frontage on the Conway River and the easement will help protect water quality within this watershed. According to Mr. Eddins, “Having been blessed all my life by God allowing me to live on my family farm, I would like to see it preserved for posterity. There have been so many beautiful farms lost forever in this area and I do not wish mine to ever become a subdivision. I feel that a conservation easement is the morally right thing to do.” 


Photo by PEC staff

Planning for Pedestrians 
In November, Greene County moved forward with efforts to make its designated growth area a more attractive place, including the development of a form-based code for Ruckersville to encourage redevelopment of an auto-centric space into an area that is better suited for foot traffic. The county is also moving forward with the creation of a reservoir to support urban development, and PEC is watching closely to ensure that they do not build more capacity than is needed.

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Madison

New report completed on the Battles of Jacks Shop and James City
PEC worked with Stephen Thompson of Rivanna Archaeological Services to develop a report covering the 1863 Battles of Jack’s Shop and James City. Funded by a grant from the American Battlefield Protection Program of the National Park Service, the report details the troop movements and provides a historical overview of the Civil War’s incursion into Madison in September and early October 1863. Along with instilling an even deeper sense of love for the land, the report provides a level of field research that will help advance battlefield land conservation efforts.

Rural Resorts and Event Venues
Madison passed a zoning ordinance in May 2019 that permits rural resorts on 100 acres or more in agricultural-zoned areas via special-use permit. Rural resorts are defined by the County as “a destination designed to provide recreation, entertainment, and accommodations to transient guests.” The ordinance was approved by both the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. PEC influenced many of the design features related to the ordinance, including open space and parking requirements. In our view, a rural resort should be tied to the rural nature of Madison County. We will continue to follow any projects that may file for a special use permit application.

Whiteoak Canyon 
PEC partnered with the Graves Family, Trout Unlimited, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and private foundations to replace the stream crossing and restore the stream bed of Cedar Run at Whiteoak Canyon, one of the most popular trail heads in Shenandoah National Park. The project removed old concrete embedded culverts that were deteriorating and impeding fish passage and replaced it with a steel bridge with timber decking. The project connects three miles of in-stream habitat for Brook trout and improves access to the Whiteoak trailhead. We are deeply thankful to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Orvis, The Piedmont Environmental Council, the Nimick Forbesway Foundation and the Ohrstrom Foundation for their support of this project.


Photo by Hugh Kenny


Headwater Stream Initiative
PEC, Friends of the Rappahannock, Virginia Department of Forestry and Culpeper Soil and Water District have worked to provide free technical service, native trees and planting materials to help landowners establish forested riparian buffers in the Rappahannock-Rapidan River watershed. In Madison County, PEC and partners worked alongside a total of 300 volunteers from local schools and the community to plant 4.5 acres worth of trees along the Robinson River in the spring and fall. 

Utility-Scale Solar Ordinance
Since the beginning of the year, PEC has assisted the County with the creation of an ordinance to address utility-scale solar regulations. Our staff not only spoke out during public meetings, but also attended subcommittee meetings to directly communicate with County staff on our professional thoughts with siting utility-scale solar. Currently, Madison’s ordinance limits utility-scale solar facilities to industrial-zoned land.

Rapidan River and Clarks Mountain Rural Historic District
The Rapidan River area from Route 15 to Morton’s Ford has an incredibly rich history. This area, largely defined by the river, reflects layers of history beginning with use by the Monacan Indians, early settlement and plantations, the development of the railroad, diversified agriculture, and the Civil War encampments and battle at Morton’s Ford. For this reason, PEC is seeking formal recognition of this landscape, encompassing some 40,000 acres in Orange, Madison and Culpeper counties, as a Rural Historic District. The proposed district has been deemed eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Survey work continues on the aptly named Rapidan River and Clarks Mountain Rural Historic District. The recognition is significant. But to be placed on the register, the individual properties within the boundaries of the district have to be surveyed to identify any significant resources. As well, the majority of residents within the boundaries have to support its creation prior to any final nomination. There will be public meetings to inform the community about the district and the process for nomination in the upcoming months. Stay tuned for dates and times. 

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Albemarle County & Charlottesville

Working at the Local Level
PEC worked with Albemarle County officials to amend the County's rules on events at agricultural operations and to ensure a balance between the rural economy and the right of rural landowners to enjoy their quality of life. Additionally, as Albemarle officials created a document to help prepare and adapt to climate change, PEC advocated for upholding the Comprehensive Plan goal of concentrating development within the urban area. The long-standing goal supported by PEC for years is paying off. In the first half of 2019, 678 of 728 new building permits in Albemarle were in the development area.

Advocating for Better Transit and Smart Growth
PEC has been a champion for more efficient bus service throughout the region, with spoken comments at all meetings this year of the Regional Transit Partnership. One specific policy victory has been the decision by the University of Virginia to become an active member of the group. PEC will continue to work to ensure that alternatives to driving continue to become an effective and reliable means of getting around the community.

Smart growth in Greater Charlottesville requires cooperation and transparency between Albemarle, Charlottesville and the University of Virginia. When the suggestion was made to discontinue a public body that meets to discuss regional growth, PEC leads the charge to demand its continued existence. PEC will continue to serve as a watchdog on the UVA, the biggest driver of economic and population growth in the area.


Photo by Meredyth Sanders


Permanent Protection for Over 4,500 acres
PEC staff assisted the James C. Justice Companies with the permanent protection of approximately 4,500 acres of undeveloped timber land located within the viewshed of Monticello. This is the largest single conservation easement in Albemarle County and represents approximately 1% of the entire County.

Improving Public Access to Ragged Mountain Reservoir
PEC worked with a landowner to facilitate the City of Charlottesville’s acquisition of an approximately 150-acre property adjacent to Ragged Mountain Reservoir. The acquisition funds for the bargain sale came from a USDA Community Forestry Program grant. This is the first time these funds have been awarded to a land protection project in Virginia

Moving from Planning to Implementation of Key Connections
PEC wrapped up a multi-year Strengthening Systems Grant from the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation resulting in significant public outreach and advocacy around bicycle and pedestrian connectivity and the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission’s publication of the Jefferson Area Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan. Albemarle County has budgeted $6,000,000 in new funding for bicycle and pedestrian “quality of life” projects and the County Economic Development Authority has put $1,000,000 into the Woolen Mills redevelopment project to ensure that a bike/pedestrian bridge is constructed over Moores Creek. In addition, we have helped the County make significant strides toward negotiating a public trail corridor connecting Biscuit Run Park to the City/County urban area.

Conservation for the Future
This year, PEC staff assisted James “Goo” Eddins with the donation of a conservation easement on approximately 124 acres in Greene County. The property has been in Goo’s family for over a century and is almost completely surrounded by other protected lands. The property also has approximately 3,000 feet of frontage on the Conway River and the easement will help protect water quality within this watershed. According to Mr. Eddins, “Having been blessed all my life by God allowing me to live on my family farm, I would like to see it preserved for posterity. There have been so many beautiful farms lost forever in this area and I do not wish mine to ever become a subdivision. I feel that a conservation easement is the morally right thing to do.” 

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Make a Year-End Gift

Please consider a tax-deductible year-end contribution to The Piedmont Environmental Council -- you’ll become a member or renew your existing membership with any gift of $40 or more.

If you would prefer to donate offline, please send a check made payable to PEC to P.O. Box 460, Warrenton, VA 20188 or call Kandra Corbin at 540-347-2334 ext.7005.

 
 
 

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