The Leesburg Town Council gave its vote of confidence to a program proposed by Supervisor Tony Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) to offer public money to help pay for protecting more land from development.
The council unanimously endorsed a resolution this week in support of the program, which was moved forward by the Board of Supervisors over the summer. Buffington’s plan would have the county government help pay the up-front cost of putting land under conservation easements, a cost that can run into the tens of thousands of dollars between appraisals, financial and legal services. A $150,000 fund from the county’s year-end budget balance will be set up, which would be used cover up to 50 percent or $15,000—whichever is less—of the costs for a landowner putting property into a conservation easement.
Conservation easements are agreements between landowners and the government or a nonprofit to permanently limit development and subdivision on a property. Property owners have pointed out that on top of the up-front cost, they are also giving up the potential for profit from their land by preventing it from being subdivided and sold to developers.
With its affirmative vote this week, Leesburg joins other Loudoun towns that have supported the program, including Hillsboro, Middleburg and Lovettsville, as well as a slew of community and nonprofit organizations.
While acknowledging that very few parcels within town limits would qualify for the program, Mayor Kelly Burk noted, “if the western part of the county does well, the rest of us do well also.”
Reporter Renss Greene contributed to this article.