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ACE Program Celebrates 10 Years of Success in Albemarle County

Next Round of Applications Due October 31


Albemarle County is celebrating ten years of success for the Acquisition of Conservation Easements (ACE) Program, during which time significant progress has been made in purchasing development rights in the rural area to protect open spaces and natural resources.  While funding for the program has been reduced in recent years due to the economic downturn , funds are still available and interested landowners are encouraged to apply to the program by October 31.

During ACE’s first ten years, the County has closed on 39 easements and 7,429 acres while eliminating 446 development rights on those properties.  This has translated to the preservation of a significant number of family farms that together have protected over 80,000 linear feet of stream and river frontage with riparian buffers, many of which lie in our drinking supply watersheds.  A total of over 85,000 acres have been placed in conservation easements during the last 10 years thanks to the efforts of partners including the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, Piedmont Environmental Council, and The Nature Conservancy.

Albemarle County closed on its first class of conservation easement purchases in 2001, acquiring easements on 4 properties, all of which were working family farms and two of which were in the Southwest Mountains Rural Historic District.  With those first acquisitions the County permanently protected 502 acres of “prime” farm and forestland and eliminated 88 development rights.

The County recently closed on the newest ACE acqusition, a 96 acre property that joins another ACE property, has frontage on I-64, and has over 4,000 feet of riparian buffer on Stockton Creek, which feeds into the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir.  The newest ACE property is owned by two women who want to protect their farm from development and preserve their rural heritage.  

“Our family is very focused on protecting this farm from development and on preserving the natural resources, including a stream, that are abundant on the property,” said Brad Stanerson, the son of one of the property owners.  “We appreciate the opportunity that the ACE program provides to keep this lovely rural area in permanent conservation.”

Any landowner in Albemarle County whose land should remain in open space according to the county’s Comprehensive Plan is eligible to participate in ACE.  An evaluation system has been established to help rank properties in order of their value to the program, with the final determination as to purchase of specific properties to be made by the Board of Supervisors.

Landowners have until October 31, 2011, to submit their application for inclusion in the ACE program.  An information packet, including an application form, is available from the county’s Department of Planning and Community Development at the County Office Building, 401 McIntire Road or on the county’s website at  Residents can request a packet or can discuss the program in more detail by calling (434) 296-5823.

Conservation easements allow the landowner to retain ownership of the land with specific restrictions in place regarding use and development of the property. Easements provide a lasting benefit to the public through the protection of open space, scenic beauty, wildlife habitats, air and water quality, and resources of historical, cultural and ecological significance.

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