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Saving land
Spotsylvania supervisors consider creating Purchase of Development Rights program

 Anne Beals, owner of Oakley Farm in Spotsylvania, supports farmland preservation. She's keenly interested in the county's proposal to let major landowners sell their development rights.
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Date published: 10/19/2004


• Aerial photos: Click here to view Development Watch 2.0, an overview of some major projects

Anne Beals has spent 30 years loving a spread of land in western Spotsylvania.

Sitting behind her home on the 3,800-acre Oakley Farm, she recalled how future husband George Beals lured her from college in Vermont to the area in 1974.

"He said, 'You know, you really ought to come take a look at this farm my family owns in Virginia,'" she said. "I came down and looked, and never left."

Because of her deep affection for the land, Beals is very interested in a new conservation program the Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors is considering.

Under the Purchase of Development Rights program, landowners could get cash and lower tax bills in return for not turning property over for subdivisions and strip malls. They could continue to farm their land or for a variety of passive activities.

George Beals died in 2000, leaving Anne to manage the farm and its cattle operation.

She and her extended family could make a lot of money selling their farm to developers.

But like her late husband, Anne is a committed preservationist. Her adult children have staged several outdoor concerts at the farm as an alternate source of income to help preserve the land.

The proposed PDR program would give them another option.

"You don't know what's going to happen in the future," Beals said, folding her hands. "To have a tool like this would be a great advantage to us and the county."

Spotsylvania planning commissioners tentatively approved a PDR program earlier this month. Supervisors will likely approve the program, as well, but must figure out a way to pay for it.

The growth game
Part 1:
• High-density developments run into snags. Is there a plan for smart growth?
Part 2:
• Proffers do not guarantee rezoning approval
• Stafford developers propose projects, but hesitate to file for rezonings because supervisors have not reached consensus on growth
Part 3:
• New tool for managing growth draws interest, but can area taxpayers afford it?

Supervisors Chairman Bob Hagan sees PDR as a key to protecting Spotsylvania's rolling green hillsides.

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