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Meeting Preview: June 2nd, 2011 BOS Worksession

June 1, 2011

This week the Board of Supervisors will be hosting its monthly worksession, which is held each month at 4 p.m. before the Planning Commission meeting. However, there is no Planning Commission meeting this month. Fret not–there have been several times over the last few years when the Commission hasn’t met because, frankly, with the economic downturn, there’s been some months where there’s no applications to consider. I’m guessing this is one of them–it should be noted they’re permitted to do this under state code.

The worksessions are a relatively new innovation for Shenandoah County. Previously, the County had used a committee system where issues were informally discussed before they were brought to the full board. That’s been dispensed with in favor of one meeting a month with the same basic purpose. Again, no binding votes are taken at this meeting. One can argue that decisions are made, though, so we feel that these worksessions deserve public attention. So, onto the show, with notes to help you learn more about the issues at hand.

Shenandoah County
Board of Supervisors

AGENDA

Board Conference Room
Shenandoah County Government Center
Woodstock, Virginia

Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 4:00 PM

WORKSESSION TOPIC(S)

1. Discussion regarding Conservation Easements (Ed–Conservation easements are legal agreements that bind the landowner to restrictions on their property. This is in exchange for benefits such as tax write-offs. These restrictions “go with the land” if it is sold, but do not convert it to public land. You can read more about the basics here on Wikipedia, and the specifics of Virginia’s code here. In 2007, the County passed, after a public hearing, an ordinance allowing for the county to purchase conservation easements. Throughout 2008 and 2009 the Board appointed members to the County’s conservation easement authority, which has been meeting since August 2009. However, the county does not currently own any easements, owing largely to the budgetary conditions of the last few years. There are roughly 4000 acres under conservation easement in the county, these easements held largely by nonprofits. Individuals can donate easements, but so far, that hasn’t happened. The Authority receieved a relatively tiny donation from the Valley Conservation Council, most of which was used to pay for a newsletter to county landowners. There was a discussion at the April 26th meeting on easements, which was covered by the NVDaily.  The Herald later had a more in-depth report on the possibility of using rollback taxes, which is the difference between the land use assessment and the total tax bill over the last six years if the land is developed, to fund purchases.)

2. Update from the County Farm Advisory Committee (Ed-The County Farm is a property located off of Zion Church Road in Maurertown and adjoins the County Park. The Farm was originally the Glebe Farm of the Beckford Parish of the Anglican Church and was used by Reverend Peter Muhlenburg to pay for his family’s expenses. After the Revolutionary War the church structure was dissolved throughout the colonies and many of the farms disposed of–including this one, which was deeded to the county in 1798. Since then it has been used for “the benefit of the poor,” although just what that means has changed throughout the years. The Farm is currently run by the Shenandoah Alliance for Shelter, and several acres are under one and five year leases for private farming. In 2007, coming on the heels of the collapse of a wall at the main house,  a Task Force was appointed to consider options for the farm. They delivered a report, which can be read here, in early 2009 and recommended that a long term Advisory Committee be set up to deal with the Farm. The Committee was formed, and the membership can be found here. Since its formation it appears not much has happened–or if it has, it hasn’t gotten much publicity. There’s no page for the Committee on the website. However, the County recently agreed to participate in a forgivable affordable housing loan program, and that will be targeted towards efforts at the Alms House, so we’ll see what comes up at the worksession. Read more on the history of the structure from the Shenandoah County Historical Society here and here.)

3. Discussion regarding the George’s Chicken/Tyson Court Case (Ed–In March George’s Incorporated inked a deal to buy the Tyson chicken processing plant in Harrisonburg in March, along with facilities in New Market and Edinburg. George’s already owns a facility in Harrisonburg along with one west of Edinburg on Route 42. However, the Justice Department filed a suit in early May asking that the sale be stopped, claiming it would create a duopoly. A group of growers chimed in saying they would’ve bought the plant, while George’s said they couldn’t have afforded it. The accusations have since flew back and forth, and George’s has been on a PR blitz defending itself as a family business. Meanwhile, Virginia’s Two US Senators, Congressman Goodlatte, and Governor McDonnell issued a joint statement asking that Justice reconsider, as did several Republican Delegates and State Senators from the area. Delegate Todd Gilbert did not sign this letter. A trial is set for August 22nd. The Board of Supervisors currently has two farmers and one in management at Bowman’s Inc, a local apple processor)
OTHER BUSINESS

ADJOURNMENT

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