November 30, 2011

Washington Politics Thriving in Fauquier

Since 2002, the County's Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program has given more than $10million to landowners who entered into agreements to sell the development potential of qualifying property to the County while maintaining the right to continue ownership and use of the property.

The stated purpose of the PDR Program is to protect farmland and retain the agricultural industry's critical mass, in particular, farm parcels that are economically viable operations.

The program is funded almost entirely from tax receipts and grants from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), a taxpayer-funded agency.

Taxpayers currently give property owners $25,000 for each qualifying "building lot" that they want to sell development rights to, and they get a reduced Property Tax assessment for the land.

In Fauquier County, the owners of 36 farms have been given $10,577,500 not to develop land they probably had no intention of developing. Some examples: various Arrington's - $1,020,000, Howard Grove estate - $660,000, David E. Burton - $630,000, William D. Peters - $620,000, Al-Mara Farm, Inc. - $500,000, James Eustace - $480,000, Stillwater Farm LLC - $427,500, Edward & Betsy Price - $420,000, Cool Lawn Farms, LLC - $390,000, Wilbur Burton - $350,000.

A newly elected member of the Board of Supervisors, the very same body that approves these give-aways, received approval for a $175,000 PDR gift just two days after the recent election. The timing of the announcement reeks of political gamesmanship.

People who want to support this program should simply donate their own money for these "development rights". In 2010, the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) raised over $4M from grants and donations to be used to balance conservation and economic development.

Supporters of voluntary programs are welcome to pay anyone they want, as much as they want, for any reason they want, and let the rest of us decide who and what we support with the money we work hard to get.

Rex A. Hoover