Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2006
HJR 133/SJR 94: Open Space Lands and Farmland Preservation
October 10, 2006
The Joint Subcommittee to Study Long-Term Funding Sources for the Purchase of Develop-ment Rights to Preserve Open-Space Land and Farmlands, co-chaired by Delegate Lynwood Lewis and Senator Emmett Hanger, held its second meeting on October 10, 2006. Several guest speakers were invited to the meeting to make presentations to the members.
McPherson - Agricultural Reserve Program Coordinator, Virginia Beach Agriculture
agriculture as a viable industry.
Landowners participating in the program can still farm, rent or sell, hunt, and harvest timber on their land. However, land for which development rights have been purchased may not be developed for residential, commercial (other than farming), industrial, or similar purposes. Virginia Beach has purchased the development rights to approximately 7,100 acres, which otherwise could have supported 623 development units under the city's zoning ordinances. The total value of the development rights purchased for the 7,100 acres is $22,643,000.
Virginia Beach's purchase of development rights program is funded by a portion of its real estate tax. The city's real estate tax rate in general is $0.99 per $100 of assessed value of which $0.009 per $100 is dedicated for funding of the program. The dedicated portion of the real estate tax generates approximately $4 million on an annual basis. In the 2006 fiscal year, $3.7 million was transferred from the program to acquire property bordering Naval Air Station Oceana. The current balance of the agricultural reserve program is $14,598,762. This amount is needed to:
25-year United States Treasury Strips that, upon maturity, are used to
make balloon payments to landowners participating in the program.
Wescoat and Jeff Walker - Supervisors, Northampton County Board of Supervisors
Northampton County has adopted a purchase of development rights ordinance that has been approved by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. One way the county funds the program is to dedicate one-half of all collected rollback taxes, which are imposed upon landowners who are not in compliance with use value taxation agreements. The county may also consider new legislation to increase the lodging tax from 2% to 5% to fund the program.
Atkinson - Rural Community Coordinator, Virginia Beach Agriculture Department
• Ten localities
have established and provided some funding for a local purchase of development
Mr. Atkinson stated that of all the land developed in Virginia since the founding of Jamestown, more than 25% has been developed in the last 15 years. He noted that successful land conservation requires the protection of diverse lands, including working farms, forests, scenic landscapes, natural areas, wildlife habitat and game lands, historic resources, and parks and recreational areas. In terms of conservation, priorities for the Commonwealth would include:
an adequate land base of working farm and forest land so that agriculture
remains an economic leader in Virginia.
The managers' group estimates an average statewide cost of $6,000 per acre to purchase development rights to land. If the Commonwealth funds one-half of the estimated cost per acre, then the cost to the state for the preservation of 300,000 acres would be $300 million.
Mr. Atkinson stated that the Office of Farmland Preservation should be fully staffed, including staffing for the Virginia Farm Link Program, and that localities should be able to issue debt for farmland preservation without voter approval. He explained that preserving diverse lands requires a variety of programs at the state and local level, including:
• State tax
credits for voluntary donations of conservation easements under the Virginia
Land Conservation Incentives Act of 1999.
Schmidt - Mid-Atlantic States Director, American Farmland Trust
Maryland has funded its program primarily from a real estate transfer tax, and other funding from an agricultural transfer tax, proceeds from bonds, appropriations, and funds from the Federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program. For fiscal year 2007, Maryland has $115.5 million in its purchase of developments rights programs with $89.5 appropriated to the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF) and $26 million appropriated to the Rural Legacy program. One-half of MALPF funds are split equally among Maryland’s 23 counties and the remaining one-half is used for matching local source funds on a 60% state/40% local cost share. Funds appropriated to the Rural Legacy program are allocated to approved areas based on a local government’s history of acquiring conservation easements.
Pennsylvania has funded its program through the issuance of $100 million in bonds in 1987; the dedication of cigarette tax revenues in 1991 generating approximately $20 million per year; a one-time appropria-tion of $43 million in 1999; a “Growing Greener” bond program established in 1999 providing for the sale of $646 million in bonds over 5 years with $100 million of the proceeds dedicated for farmland preservation; a “Growing Greener II” bond program established in 2005 providing for the sale of $625 million in bonds over 6 years with $80 million dedicated for farmland preservation; and the dedication of 14.5% of the revenues in Pennsylvania’s Environmental Stewardship Fund. In 2006, Pennsylvania has approximately $102 million available for distribution to local county purchase of development rights programs. One-half of these moneys will be distributed to counties based on real estate activity in Pennsylvania’s counties and the remaining one-half will be distributed based on county matching funds and agricultural productivity.
Delaware has funded its program using $60 million received under a lawsuit against the State of New York; a state transfer tax established in 2005 that generates approxi-mately $10 million per year; $17.6 million in funds received since 1996 under the Federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program; transportation funds; and Farmland preservation license plates. In 2006, Delaware has approximately $13.6 million in funds to purchase development rights to land. Next Meeting The next meeting of the joint subcommittee will be held on Tuesday, November 28, 2006, at 1:30 p.m. at Graves Mountain Lodge in Syria, Virginia.
Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2006