On the Ground – Summer 2014

Conservation Options and Staying up to Date on the County’s Comprehensive Plan

Landowners in Albemarle County have a number of options avail­able for protecting their property with a conservation easement. Currently, residents are able to donate a conservation easement for various tax deductions and credits, but they can also apply to sell a conservation easement to Albemarle County through the Acquisi­tion of Conservation Easement program. At this time, the program has over $1,000,000 in funding for the current class of applicants, and an additional $640,000 or more will be budgeted for the next cycle.

In other news, over the next several months the Albemarle Board of Supervisors will review, by individual chapter, proposed revisions to the County’s Comprehensive Plan. On June 4, a meeting was held to discuss the section on historic, cultural and scenic preservation. At a meeting scheduled for July 9, the board will review the Rural Area chapter. There are recommendations in this chapter that PEC is wary of, particularly the revision of the county’s long-standing policy to strictly limit the Rural Area non-agricultural commercial activities. We’re also concerned about the consideration to allow commercial development at interstate interchanges.

Getting Started in Clarke & Rappahannock

We would like to welcome the new Rappahannock and Clarke Conservation Officer, Carolyn Sedgwick, who joined PEC this month. Carolyn has a background in both ornithology and land conservation. She will be getting settled in over the next couple of months, but please feel free to contact her at csedgwick@pecva.org with any questions or to introduce yourself.

Walking Through the Bluebells

We had sunny weather and high atten­dance for this year’s 11th Annual Bluebell Walk. The crowd hiked across the pic­turesque farm fields, which have been preserved forever with a conservation easement, to see the banks of Cedar Run covered with bluebells. Naturalists were among the crowd to help identify native vegetation. The day was filled with a lot of smiles and picture-taking. Now that’s what we call a success!

State Wildlife Grant

PEC has received support from a State Wildlife Grant from the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries, the Virginia Environmental Endowment and members of PEC for habitat restoration in the Upper Conway. Over the next two years, this project will address items such as controlling invasive plants, restoring native vegetation and assessing brook trout barriers. The grants will also help fund land conservation and public outreach efforts. This is a multi-agency effort led by PEC, and includes Trout Unlimited, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisher­ies, Shenandoah National Park,Virginia Department of Forestry, Madison County Parks and Recreation and local residents.

Towering Voices

PEC voiced opposition recently to a proposed 199-foot wireless tower that would be erected on Dyke Road, one of the more scenic vistas in Greene County—a short distance from Shenan­doah National Park.PEC proposed that the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors limit the height of any individual tower to minimize the visual impact, even if it meant allowing more towers. Our comments, together with those of the church located across the road from the proposed tower site and other Greene residents, forced AT&T Wireless to look elsewhere for a site. It remains to be seen whether this story ends well. The company found another site nearby where the County approved a 200-foot radio tower over 20 years ago. AT&T Wireless may try to build something close to that height. The good news is there’s now significant energy to reform Greene’s wireless ordinance to avoid divi­sive projects like this in the future.

New Orange Office and a Big Turnout for Conservation Workshop

To better serve our Orange constituents, PEC opened a new office at the old Esso station at Montpelier station this spring. This historic landmark was built by the DuPont family in 1910. It also served as a place for people to stop and fuel up their automobiles on their way back to the city after spending the weekend at Montpelier watching thoroughbreds race.

Also in Orange County, PEC had a successful “Sources of Funding for Land Management & Land Conservation” workshop on April 30 with over 100 attendees. Participants learned about programs and funding options for enhancing stewardship of farm and forest land.

Celebrating a Conservation Success and an Earth Day Thank You

PEC was excited to celebrate the conservation of 141 acres near Gilbert’s Corner at the historic Mount Zion Old School Baptist church, this past May. We have worked with area partners for almost twenty years to conserve the rural and historic landscape around Gilbert’s Corner, and the preservation of the landscape took a major step forward when concerned residents, organized as the Roundabout Partners, came together to save the farmland from an approved residen­tial development and a proposal for 66,000 sq. ft. of commercial space.

Roundabout Partners raised funds in order to purchase the land, which they donated to PEC at the end of 2013. Containing portions of the June 1863 Battle of Aldie and a section of the Old Carolina Road, this historic land has special significance as part of a larger landscape marking the transition from suburban Loudoun County to the rural Piedmont.

We’d also like to send a big thank you to the 6,400 people who made it out to Loudoun Earth Day this year! PEC staff had a great time speaking with residents who stopped by our tents. We had a huge map this year of Loudoun County, on which adults and kids alike loved to mark their favorite spot with a colorful star sticker. Be sure to put this fun and educational event on your calendars for next year!

This article was featured in our Summer 2014 Member Newsletter, The Piedmont View.