SD5 - Long-Term Funding Sources for the Purchase of Development Rights to Preserve Open-Space Land and Farmlands

    Executive Summary:
    Joint Subcommittee Studying Long-Term Funding Sources for the Purchase of Development Rights to Preserve Open-Space Land and Farmlands (HJR 133/SJR 94 - 2006)

    During the 2006 Session of the General Assembly, the General Assembly passed SJR 94 and HJR 133, which establish a joint subcommittee to study long-term funding sources for the purchase of development rights to preserve open-space land and farmlands.

    Senator Emmett W. Hanger served as chairman of the joint subcommittee, and Delegate Lynwood W. Lewis, Jr. served as vice-chairman of the joint subcommittee. Other members of the subcommittee were Senators John Watkins and Mark R. Herring and Delegates Robert D. Orrock, Sr., Thomas C. Wright, Jr., Benjamin L. Cline, Edward T. Scott, and Albert C. Eisenberg. The joint subcommittee met three times during 2006 on August 23, October 10, and November 28.

    The joint subcommittee was instructed to review "recent funding for the preservation of open-space land, the future needs of the Commonwealth for open-space land, the cost of such needs, and long-term funding sources to pay the costs."

    In addition, the joint subcommittee was requested to "examine (i) the funding needs of the Virginia Agricultural Vitality Program and the Office of Farmland Preservation, (ii) the implementation of the Agricultural Enterprise Act and the costs of such implementation, and (iii) other strategies to enhance Virginians' ability to preserve their farmlands, including but not limited to, technical and financial assistance for the promotion of the purchase of development rights programs."

    In furtherance of the resolutions' aims, the joint subcommittee reviewed the Commonwealth's objective under the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement of conserving a required number of acres in the Chesapeake Bay watershed by January 1, 2010. To that end, the joint subcommittee heard testimony detailing state and federal programs that further land conservation in Virginia. In particular, the joint subcommittee learned that participation in the Virginia Land Conservation Tax Credit Program, one such state program, significantly increased in the latter part of 2006 as a result of legislative changes adopted by the General Assembly on August 28, 2006.

    Furthermore, the joint subcommittee heard similar testimony explaining the manifold, local government initiatives to preserve working farms and forest lands. Such initiatives include use value taxation, the creation of agricultural and forestal districts, the establishment of installment purchase agreements, and the implementation of purchase of development rights programs.

    The joint subcommittee formally agreed to propose a bill continuing the study. In addition, the joint subcommittee agreed to propose a bill expanding the projects that can be financed through the Virginia Resources Authority to include programs or projects for land conservation/preservation.

    Provided that a resolution continuing the study for an additional year is agreed to by the General Assembly, the joint subcommittee intends to submit to the General Assembly and the Governor, before the commencement of the 2008 Session of the General Assembly, its findings and recommendations for publication as a House or Senate Document.

    The joint subcommittee's Internet web page can be found at: