By. Kara Reese Pennella, Field Officer
Albemarle County held two town hall meetings this week to address citizen concerns regarding the new land use revalidation process. The meetings were hosted by Albemarle Board of Supervisors member Ken Boyd with County Assessor Bob Willingham providing a presentation on the revalidation process. The first of two meetings was held Monday at the Stony Point Ruritan Club and was well attended by residents who were concerned with the revalidation process.
The new revalidation represents a compromise forged earlier this year between those who believe that land use taxation should be eliminated entirely and those who support the program. The purpose is to assure that those citizens who are receiving the lower land use tax rate actually use their land for one of the qualifying activities.
There are four categories under which land can qualify for the lower tax rate: including Agriculture, Horticulture, Forestry and Open Space. Open Space was by far the most controversial designation serving as a catch-all for land that did not qualify under one of the first three designations. It also has the most potential to restrict the owner’s use of their land. To qualify under this category the owner must either put the land under a Conservation Easement, apply to be included in an Agricultural or Forest District, or sign an Open Space Commitment with the County. All of these designations place restrictions on the future use of the land.
County Assessor Bob Willingham repeatedly reassured citizens that the goal of the revalidation process is not to reduce the amount of property in land use but to help bring owners into compliance with land use requirements.
Some citizens argued that the stricter enforcement of the rules was unfair. Landowners had relied on the way that the program was previously administered. Those who can not or choose not to qualify during the revalidation process will face substantial rollback taxes. Citizens also voiced concerns that these changes would force owners to sell land to developers rather than make the necessary changes to comply with the program.