Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Augusta to consider purchase of landowner development rights

SWOOPE--The Augusta County Board of Supervisors will meet tonight to decide on a proposal that would pay Augusta land owners for development rights to their land. The idea is to preserve farmland ... but many ask if it is in the best interest of the farmers.

And is it just another form of subsidy from the government in an industry that sees farmers receiving aid for growing, or not growing, certain crops?

Some question whether there is enough money to even make a dent in an area as rural as Augusta, a county that has over 300,000 acres of farmland and 1,700 farms, according to the Waynesboro News Virginian. To purchase development rights for so much land would take far more than the $1 million available to the Board of Supervisors ... or even the $5 million that may be available from the state and federal government.

Is this the best use of our tax money? Should the government try to prevent a landowner from developing his land in order to preserve the scenic value? Some think the money available is not enough to make a difference while others consider it selling their rights.

Swoope farmer Clay Hewitt falls into the latter category:
"There's not enough money to make it worthwhile to many people. How will it be equitable to decide who gets the money? The key is, you are selling your rights."
Farmers would "sell their rights" to do as they wanted on their own land.

Supervisors appear to be split on this issue, similar to previous "green" issues, with Nancy Sorrells (I-Riverheads) and Kay Frye (R-Middle River) lining up together while other supervisors look cautiously at the overall effect this legislation would have on the county.

The meeting is tonight at the Augusta County Government Building on Lee Highway in Verona at 7:00 in the Board Meeting Room.

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