Supervisor Paul Milde, who helped create the program, has called it a common-sense solution to address the county’s rapid loss of forests and farmland while protecting property owners’ rights.

“There were a lot of people who thought PDR wasn’t going to work, wasn’t worth the investment or wasn’t being done properly and we had to fight several years to pass it … I think it’s safe to say PDR has been a great success,” Milde said in an email. “We have been saving about a farm a year since we funded PDR.”

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A farm considered ripe for potential development is closer to being preserved in Stafford County thanks to a recently-issued state grant.

Stafford County has received a $130,000 land-preservation grant to help purchase a conservation easement on the Jones Farm. Stafford was the only locality in the region to receive some of the $2.25 million in state land preservation grant funds.

That $130,000 brings the county to the verge of having the $675,000 needed to purchase a conservation easement on the 43-acre farm in southeastern Stafford. The Jones Farm is the next property to benefit from Stafford’s purchase of development rights program.

PDR gives landowners an alternative to selling their land to developers by paying them to retire their development rights and place a conservation easement on their property. Under the program, the landowner retains ownership and can still live on the property.

More than 300 acres have been protected from development through the program since its inception in 2009. The easement on the Jones’ farm will be the fifth easement purchased through the program.

Supervisor Paul Milde, who helped create the program, has called it a common-sense solution to address the county’s rapid loss of forests and farmland while protecting property owners’ rights.

“There were a lot of people who thought PDR wasn’t going to work, wasn’t worth the investment or wasn’t being done properly and we had to fight several years to pass it … I think it’s safe to say PPR is been a great success,” Milde said in an email. “We have been saving about a farm a year since we funded PDR.”
The Jones Farm succeeded in the program’s 2013 application round in part because the land could easily become attractive to developers.

The property’s location off State Route 3 and well-drained soils make it subject to development pressure, according to the state. In addition, the land’s zoning could allow a developer to build one house per acre.

Thirteen acres of the farm are actively farmed for hay and 24 acres are forested, according to the state. In addition, a 35-foot vegetative buffer also protects 2,600 feet of stream and wetlands.

The county has completed conservation easement purchases on three other farms in the PDR program, and the Jones Farm is next in line. The latest grant leaves Stafford only about $8,000 shy of the $675,000 needed.

So far, the county has cobbled together funds from several sources. Half of the amount, $337,500, came from rollback tax excess within the county, a funding source typically used in the PDR program.

Rollback taxes are levied when landowners who were in the county’s land-use program decide to allow higher-intensity uses on their property.

The land-use program allows for agricultural, horticultural and forest land to be assessed at current-use value rather than market value. That translates to lower taxes for the landowners.

When owners decide to change the property’s use, they must pay the taxes they would have owed if it hadn’t been in land-use program for that year and the previous five years.

The county includes a certain amount of rollback tax revenue in its budget each year. Every dollar that goes over that budgeted amount feeds the PDR program.

In addition to the $337,500 from rollback tax excess, the Jones Farm received $50,000 in preservation grant money in January from the same program that issued the most recent $130,000. Other funds came from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences.

The Jones Farm was one of 14 properties across the state impacted by the grant funds. In total, the $2.25 million will help add 2,000 acres to Virginia’s conserved lands, according to the state.

Milde is a member of the Virginia Land Trust Foundation that chooses which projects to award. This project ranked fourth in the farmland and forestry category. Projects that were ranked below this, Milde said, didn’t receive any money.

​Vanessa Remmers: 540.735.1975

vremmers@freelancestar.com

Read more: http://www.fredericksburg.com/news/local/stafford/stafford-farm-receives-state-preservation-grant-money/article_2270fd4b-6002-504b-a24e-60de65302d8a.html?mode=jqm

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