Largest Easement in County History
Years of work by PEC staff paid off when Albemarle Conservation Easement Authority accepted a conservation easement this July on approximately 4,500 acres of forestland just south of Monticello from James C. Justice Companies, Inc. We are delighted that WV Governor Jim Justice and his family protected this important part of Albemarle County.
Social Bike Rides Return
PEC co-sponsored six social bike rides this season in partnership with other organizations. These low-stress rides and events are a great way to build our advocacy base, supporting a more connected Charlottesville and Albemarle while demonstrating how easy it is to get around on a bike.
Water Quality in the Blue Ridge
PEC is partnering with Clarke County and Friends of the Shenandoah to monitor water quality at selected sites along the Blue Ridge Mountains. Findings will help us understand the status and impairments of local waterways and will help guide planning to protect and improve water quality. Join us October — for our Water Quality 101 event to learn more.
Blue Ridge Conservation Alliance
Over 30 organizations came together this June in Boyce to discuss opportunities to work together through a regional conservation partnership stretching from Front Royal to Harpers Ferry. Led by PEC staff, BRCA facilitates workshops and working groups throughout the year to increase our collective impact on conservation.
Draft 2020 Comprehensive Plan
The Culpeper County Planning Commission is undergoing its review of the 2015 Comprehensive Plan to develop a draft 2020 Comprehensive Plan. At a time when proposals for utility-scale solar facilities and other high-intensity land uses (e.g., data centers) are being considered, the Plan becomes an increasingly important document, aiding county officials with difficult land-use decisions.
Cricket Solar – A Foregone Application
The Cricket Solar, LLC application, submitted by BayWa r.e., was officially withdrawn on August 26th. After multiple changes to the Site Plan since its original submission in December 2018, BayWa felt that the application did not adequately address citizen concerns nor effecticely mitigate natural and historical resource impacts. We hope that this application works as a case study for future solar developers, resulting in 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. However, in order to minimize the impacts associated with an industrial use, citizens and businesses alike should continue installing distributed solar and pushing for greyfield and brownfield installations. An update to the county’s Comprehensive Plan, associated historic maps, and zoning ordinance could help create community-friendly, utility-scale solar applications in the future.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service awarded PEC a grant to protect a 350-acre farm in eastern Culpeper County. Over 85% of the property contains prime soils and soils of statewide significance. Located within the study area for the Battle of Chancellorsville, the farm has historic significance. Similar to the project that protected Glenmary Farm in Orange County last year, this federally funded project contributes to PEC’s growing farmland protection initiative in the Upper Rappahannock Basin.
Rural Lands Comp Plan
Thanks to engagement from Fauquier citizens, the Board of Supervisors voted on July 11 to adopt Version A of the Rural Lands section of the Comprehensive Plan. This was a big win for conservation policies in Fauquier, signaling a resistance toward weaker land use planning.
Event Center Proposal
A new 32,000 sq. ft large event center, restaurant, and hotel complex called the Lodge at Barrel Oak is being proposed near Delaplane off of Grove Lane. PEC believes that hotels and restaurants should be located in the Service District of Marshall where they can help build the critical mass of activity and investment needed. A new event venue, with no tie to agricultural production, is not appropriate where it is being proposed.
New Conservation Project Protects Family Farm
The Virginia Outdoors Foundation accepted a conservation easement on approximately 124 acres in Greene County this July from James “Goo” Eddins. The property has been farmed by Goo’s family for over a century, is virtually surrounded by other protected lands, and has 3,000 ft. of frontage on the Conway River. In corresponding with VOF, Mr. Eddins wrote, “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.”
New Comprehensive Plan
On June 20, the Comprehensive Plan ultimately adopted by the Board of Supervisors was far better than the Planning Commission’s initial draft, which would have brought suburban level growth to the Transition Policy Area by adding over 19,000 residential units. Thanks to a huge push from citizen activists, the Board only added ~2,180 units to the 5,086 units that were already approved to be built by 2040. Work on the zoning ordinance update is expected to start in the fall.
Conservation + Outdoor Recreation
Emerald Ribbons, a concept of conservation and public access through linear parks and trails, will be further researched and developed by a stakeholder group of organizations, including PEC, and trail users selected by the Parks, Recreation and Open Space Board.
Utility-Scale Solar Ordinance
Over the past year, the Madison County Planning Commission charged an internal subcommittee to create a zoning ordinance related to utility-scale solar facilities. The ordinance, passed by the Board of Supervisors on August 7, limits these facilities to industrial-zoned land via special use permit. The creation of this ordinance has placed an emphasis on the County’s desire to keep industrial-scale energy production in industrial-zoned areas. As of yet, Madison County has not received any applications for utility-scale solar.
***PEC has been selected as a member of the Department of Environmental Quality Regulatory Advisory Panel for the Small Renewable Energy (Solar) Permit by Rule (9VAC15-60). The RAP meetings will be held during the summer/fall of 2019.
Congressional Tour of Orange
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 Messicks 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.
Landmark Land Conserved at Montpelier
As detailed in the main article of this Piedmont View, 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.
PEC’s Krebser Fund gives back to Rappahannock
On July 24, the Krebser Fund, an advisory fund of PEC for Rappahannock County, hosted over 50 landowners at the Rappahannock Farm & Land Conservation Workshop. A panel was offered by technical experts from Culpeper Soil and Water District, U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resource Conservation Service, American Farmland Trust, the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Virginia Working Landscapes, and PEC. The Fund has also awarded a total of $40,000 in grants to RappFLOW for the Rappahannock Elementary School Courtyard Project, to build an outdoor S.T.E.A.M. classroom; and to Rappahannock County Recreational Facilities Authority for conservation landscaping at the Rappahannock County Park, in Washington.