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October 28, 2011

Albemarle Supervisors candidates on county rural areas

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In the run up to Election Day on November 8th, Charlottesville Tomorrow will once again mail out our in-depth nonpartisan voter guide, featuring exclusive one-on-one interviews with all the candidates for Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and Charlottesville City Council.  In the weeks before the election, we will feature one to two questions a day so that citizens like you can compare candidates’ answers and make an informed choice November 8th.

Charlottesville Tomorrow’s 2011 Election Center website features links to the full written transcript and audio of candidate interviews, as well as links to videos of candidate forums, copies of our 2011 voter guide, information on where to vote, and more.  All the following passages are excerpts from our interviews.

BOARD OF SUPERVISORS, FIRST IN A SERIES

image from cvilletomorrow.typepad.com How will you support preserving the rich agrarian tradition and texture of our rural areas? 

 


 

Rivanna District

Ken Boyd (R) – Incumbent

Protection of our rural areas is very much a priority with all of our citizens here.  I have, and I still do, support the [Acquisition of Conservation Easements] (ACE) program during times when the local economic engine is humming, so to speak, and when there’s money in the coffers to support it.  In recent economic times my emphasis has been based upon support of our agribusiness and our improved ordinances allowing for more farm markets, local food sales, and success of our wineries.  All very positive, free-market means of maintaining a vibrant rural economy.  Protecting our rural areas will continue to be a high priority of mine, along with protecting personal property rights.

 

Cynthia Neff (D) - Challenger

Well, I mean it’s kind of a deal that Albemarle County has worked out with between the rural lands and the growth areas is that, you know, we have this – there’s a delicate balance by design, but we were going to keep the rural areas rural and we were going to keep the, you know, the all of our growth into specific things. … And I think on both ends of that equation, we’re kind of slipped a bit on the deal. 

But I’m pretty committed to keeping rural land rural.  … [I]n fact it’s pretty funny.  I live my side of the street is rural; across the street from me is the growth area.  So I really have a foot in both things and I can see the difference.  You know, when I first moved here, Ken Boyd thought maybe I should get my neighbors on my side of the street together and put our land into the growth area and I said, “Well why in heaven’s sake would I do that?” And he said “to make your land more valuable.”  And I said “well, but we have cows on my side of the street; we have chickens on my side of the street and I don’t – I can’t see that we should be, developing on that land.”  … [My neighbors] want to keep their land rural.  And the folks in the growth area, you know, want the amenities that are supposed to come with that.  And so we’ve got to keep that balance. 

… And so, I would love to see the ACE program come back.  I’ve stood on property where people have looked at me and said, “Three hundred years from now, this land will still look like this.”  You know, and it kind of takes your breath away, I mean, so I think that’s a powerful program.  … [W]e have to really figure out how to make this work for both the folks in the growth area and the folks in the rural area so we can meet our goals of keeping it gorgeous.

 

Scottsville District

Chris Dumler (D) – Open Seat

The Scottsville District is obviously one of the most agrarian in the entire County.  It’s sort of the last vestige almost at this point, if you will.  And I think, again, it comes down to a few things:  first, something I’ve always supported has been fully funding the ACE Program.  I think that obviously the amount of money that we’ve had to put towards that program has diminished over the last few years and I think that that’s something that needs to be revisited.

…The most important thing to me as far as preserving rural lands and everybody understands the importance of preservation, for environmental reasons, for ecological reasons, for cultural heritage reasons, for agricultural heritage reasons.  I think it comes down to economic vitality … to make rural living economically sustainable again. … I’ve talked with hundreds of farmers as I’ve been walking around knocking on doors, small farmers, bigger farmers, and they don’t want to develop their land.  They don’t sit around thinking I want my retirement plan to be selling my land to a developer … Again, that goes back to partnerships with the City and UVA. 

If we can get UVA to buy local food, if we could have a requirement that a certain portion of the County school system’s food comes from local sources, if we can tweak our bed and breakfast rules, if we can essentially find ways to make rural economic development and job creation sort of front and center as far as the County’s agenda goes, I think you’ll see a lot of people saying, well, you know what, I can afford to put my land in conservation easement now or you know what, I’m going to turn my farm over to my son who before knew he couldn’t make a living off of it, but now he knows he can.  He knows that the opportunities are there and then suddenly that pressure to develop, that pressure to destroy those really important lands sort of evaporates. 

 

Jim Norwood (R) – Open Seat

Well I think that one of the most interesting figures that I’ve recently been advised of is that we have 550 producing farms in this county.  Agriculture’s, second to education, is a major, if not the major economic driver.  And we need to pay more attention to the small farmer and overall farming in general, especially in southern Albemarle where we have a predominance of large farms.  How do we help them I think we have to provide education to them, I think we need to be in a position to work with the farmers, to help them improve their productivity.  And I strongly believe that the vineyards and wineries are a part of that agricultural expansion and I think that we need to also support them in a major way.

 

White Hall District

Ann Mallek (D) – Incumbent

Well that is something we have – rural area protection has had some successes and some… sidesteps.  Put it that way.  The 1980 downzoning changed lot sizes in Albemarle County – the minimums – from two-acre lots to 20 acre minimums in the rural area, with five two-acre lot exceptions per parcel.  The reasoning was to reduce the numbers of homes and their associated impacts in the watershed of the South Fork Rivanna reservoir.  This admirable goal was to prevent erosion and pollution, which would degrade and shorten the life of the reservoir. 

The agricultural character and the scenic beauty of Albemarle County have been important values for the huge majority of county residents for generations.  The county has protected this character more from encouraging successful farming than it has with regulation changes.  The land use program and the acquisition of conservation easements, or ACE program, are two of those tools.  Improvements to the driveway regulations were passed to require more careful design of roads on steep slopes.  Increases in the stream buffer and stream crossing requirements also reduced permanent cover disturbance and erosion. 

The decisions of the Board of Supervisors on rural area protection over the last four years have been moderate, taking into consideration the effects of proposed changes on the rural land owners, new and longtime, those with small holdings and those with large ones.  So we did not take dramatic steps to make sweeping changes but have been working on baby steps as a way to keep that – make changes that will stick.

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