Housing and Connectivity
PEC is urging elected officials in both Albemarle and Charlottesville to keep environmental factors in mind as it considers housing projects in sensitive areas. Recently, we helped persuade the city’s Planning Commission to deny support for a request to increase housing density on property within a flood-plain. We support urban density where appropriate, but both Albemarle and Charlottesville must protect sensitive areas from over-development that hinders the land’s ability to provide ecological services. Data indicates that Albemarle’s growth management policy is working, but we will continue to be vigilant at a time when housing development has been identified as a key policy goal.
We continue to lead efforts to increase funding for bike and pedestrian connectivity in Albemarle and Charlottesville. We have helped coordinate an update of the Jefferson Area Bike Plan, a regional vision that will become part of the comprehensive plans in both localities (see story on page 5 to learn more details).
Water Quality and Conservation Luncheon
PEC is partnering with Clarke County and Friends of the Shenandoah River to monitor local stream quality by looking for macroinvertebrates. These bugs tolerate different stream conditions and levels of pollution, so they are great indicators of stream health. Findings will be shared among partners to help efforts in protecting water quality. The program starts this spring. If you would like to volunteer, contact PEC field representative Tracy Lind at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This past January, as Clarke County community members enjoyed lunch at the Locke Store, we led a discussion about land use, land conservation and advocacy-related topics for the county and the Commonwealth. We host luncheons on a regular basis throughout the region. To learn more, please contact Karissa Epley at email@example.com.
White Farm Conserved and PDR Program
This past December, Adam White donated a conservation easement to PEC, ensuring the protection of his family’s 67-acre farm in Culpeper County. The farm has prime agricultural soils and resides at the headwaters of Mountain Run, a drinking water supply for the county. The property is enrolled in Culpeper Soil and Water District’s agricultural best management practice cost-share program for stream exclusion fencing.
In other news, Culpeper County looks to fund its Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program for the first time since it was drafted as part of the county’s Code for Agricultural Lands Preservation in 2007. The county has included $100,000 in their draft Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) to start the PDR program, which will allow them to secure matching funds from the Commonwealth. Thanks to a grant from The Volgenau Foundation, we are committed to matching the county dollar for dollar if their final CIP includes this funding. This program recognizes the important agricultural heritage of Culpeper, creating viable economic solutions for farmers who seek to protect their land with a conservation easement.
Transportation Fixes and New Cell Tower Regulations
Broadview Avenue may become a little less chaotic due to a plan to incorporate improvements such as medians, bike lanes and pedestrian crossings with flashing lights at the Rt. 211/Broadview Avenue intersection. It is a first step in the longer-term goal to make the stretch more walkable, incorporate interparcel connections and re-envision the area.
Also in Fauquier transportation news, the Rt. 29/215 intersection safety enhancement project will grade and fill the hills on northbound Rt. 29. Many severe accidents have occurred here due to poor visibility of stopped traffic below the crest of the hill. During PEC’s correspondence with VDOT, we have tried to balance citizen’s concerns about safety and the preservation of the Buckland Battlefield. We have encouraged VDOT to keep the project within the existing right-of-way and document any remnants of the original road alignment found during construction.
In an effort to improve broadband coverage, the Board of Supervisors plan to vote in March on a new zoning ordinance that expedites cell tower proposals in “target areas.” While the ordinance does include facility standards and a requirement for additional review of sites located in sensitive areas, towers in “target areas” will still be expedited to the Board of Supervisors, who will be able to waive facility standards and suggested mitigation. We are concerned about these changes because “target areas” have not yet been identified.
Putting Stanardsville on the Map
Efforts to designate a new scenic corridor between Crozet and Front Royal took a big step forward this past January. The Greene County Board of Supervisors is in support of designating Rt. 230 and 810 as Virginia Scenic Byways, a major coup for PEC’s efforts to help promote the rural economy. If approved by VDOT, travelers looking for rural places to explore will have a new guide. This also fits in with part of Greene’s emphasis on linking tourism with economic development, and will connect Blue Ridge Heritage Project monuments related to the construction of the Shenandoah National Park and the displacement of many who were forced to leave their homes.
Trails, Comprehensive Plan, Roundabout Meadows and Easement Program
Emerald Ribbons, the county-wide trails system envisioned by PEC and others in the Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition, was unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors. The Parks, Recreation and Open Space Board, will now work with partners to develop an implementation plan and make recommendations in June.
We will lead a series of community meetings in February and March to inform and encourage participation for the draft Loudoun 2040 Plan. Check our Loudoun web page for a session in your area, and help ensure that the Plan reflects residents’ interests. Visit pecva.org/loudoun2040 to learn more.
Dana Melby, PEC’s new farm manager for our Community Farm at Roundabout Meadows, continues to prepare for the growing season and recruiting volunteers (see cover article to learn more).
In December, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the creation of a Conservation Easement Assistance Program. The board’s action set aside $150,000 to assist landowners with the cost of donating conservation easements. The program will provide grants of up to $15,000 to qualifying landowners. Additional information about the program can be found at www.loudoun.gov.
Planning Commission Tackles Utility-Scale Solar
Like many counties in the Piedmont, the Madison County Planning Commission has been studying siting guidelines for utility-scale solar projects with an eye toward adopting their own. Residents can contact the Planning Commission to learn about their findings and recommendations, which were released at a work session this past February.
Healthy Watershed Pilot Program
PEC has been working with the Department of Forestry on their Healthy Watershed project, which aims to improve water quality through forest conservation and market-based incentives. Orange and Essex counties are the only two Virginia localities selected to develop pilot programs. A workshop was held in Orange County on January 17 with the Department of Forestry and the Berkeley Group to provide an overview of the program to community members and garner their input.
Rappahannock County Park: Attacking Invasives and Planting Natives
PEC’s Krebser Fund for Rappahannock Land Conservation is supporting the Rappahannock County Recreational Facilities Authority in their development of a master plan that protects the park’s natural resources and enhances visitor’s recreational experience. The master plan includes a prioritized list of environmental projects and outreach activities, including volunteer work days to help build native pollinator gardens, enhance riparian buffers and plant native trees. Stay tuned for volunteer opportunities and conservation events!
Our Headwaters Stream Initiative will continue in 2019, providing free technical service, native trees and planting materials to help landowners establish forested riparian buffers. Along with Friends of the Rappahannock and Virginia Department of Forestry, we are working with local schools to complete three projects this spring, which will result in four acres of new riparian forest canopy.
This article was featured in our Spring 2019 member newsletter, The Piedmont View.