Environmental Conservation Easements Trump-ing Property Rights

BookCoverImageA new battle is waging in Virginia involving the restriction of land use in rural areas. The protagonists are the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) with its “comprehensive planning” of Virginia’s rural areas and Donald Trump with his proposed Trump National Golf Club in Albemarle County near Charlottesville, Virginia.

Trump Virginia Acquisitions, LLC, bought Patricia Kluge’s Estate Winery and Vineyard in 2011, a 1,200-acre property with a dormant nine-hole golf course designed by Arnold Palmer. Trump’s proposed golf course, expanded to 18-holes, will take up 480 acres, 216 which were placed under “conservation easement” by Patricia Kluge in 2006.

A “conservation easement” imposes certain restrictions on the homeowner’s use of their property in exchange for tax breaks. Dr. Cohen said that “golf courses with conservation easements are common throughout the United States, including on courses owned by Donald Trump.

The project proposes that 25 percent of the 216 acres in question be used for tees, fairways, and greens, while the rest would be set aside for “farmland and grassland bird habitat.”

PEC considers the project “inconsistent with the rural and agricultural character of the area,” citing “the large scale venue and thousands of potential visitors to the golf course and the negative impact on the surrounding properties and the rural landscape that is such an iconic part of Albemarle County.”

“In addition to the traffic and noise impacts, we also have concerns about the water use, run-off, and septic issues,” said PEC.

According to Bonner Cohen, Patricia Kluge’s conservation easement involves use for “temporary or seasonal outdoors activities” not “permanently alter the physical appearance of the property.” Golf in Virginia is a seasonal outdoor activity since winters are too cold to allow golfers playtime on a daily basis.

“Traffic and noise” are questionable objections since Albemarle County already has seven public and private golf courses. Three of these courses are located in rural areas.

Anybody who lives in the rural vicinity of a university is familiar with the seasonal traffic and outdoor activities involving football fans driving to home games and having tailgate parties. In the 762-square-mile Albemarle County, football fans drive through to the University of Virginia games in Charlottesville, Virginia, with little disturbance to the environment. It is highly improbable that 61,500 individuals (the capacity of the UV’s Scott Stadium) would drive to Trump’s proposed golf course to play at the same time.

Trump Virginia Acquisitions, LLC, has applied for a special use permit (SUP) from the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors (BOS). A hearing will be set in the near future. In the meantime, opponents and proponents of Trump’s project are voicing their opinions to the BOS.

The Board of Supervisors (BOS) may approve or deny the project or pass the decision making on to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) a body that oversees conservation easements.

Scott York, chairman of the Loudon County BOS, praised the Trump National Washington, D.C. Golf Course, “They have invested millions, contributed to job growth, and helped raise real estate values in the area they are located.”

The Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC), based in Warrenton, Virginia, was successful in blocking Disney from opening a theme park in Prince William County, Virginia twenty years ago. They have a specific land-use vision for rural Virginia and land owners must follow their dictates or suffer expensive fines. Their vision coincides with UN Agenda 21 “visioning” zoning plans passed around the country with the help of Local Governments for Sustainability, formerly known as ICLEI.

Martha Boneta has a conservation easement with PEC in Fauquier County, Virginia. She uses tires on her property to “help hollow fields for plowing, train animals to move in a certain direction, and assist in planting. PEC sued Boneta, saying the tires violated her agricultural conservation easement, and she was forced to store them in an enclosure.” http://www.cfact.org/2013/11/05/trumping-a-golf-course-over-pec-adillos-in-northern-virginia/#sthash.o7uksdQG.dpuf

But when Donald Trump made disparaging remarks over tires strewn on a dilapidated farm near the construction site of a golf course in Aberdeen, Scotland, he was criticized in the “documentary” You’ve Been Trumped as “insensitive to rural ways.” Are tires useful then when they suit the environmentalist agenda and harmful when they do not?

Dr. Cohen quoted the PEC President Chris Miller who commented that “comprehensive planning” in rural areas should extend to “farms near or adjacent to properties with conservation easements and should be under a similar level of scrutiny in land-use-related decisions.”

Check the rural “comprehensive planning” in your area and see how much of your property rights have already been taken away by conservation easements and through zoning laws passed by BOS without your knowledge, approval, or opportunity to vote.

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