Front Porch Blog

Orange Approves Forestal Land Use

Culpeper Star Exponent
by Jeff Poole
July 2, 2006

The last time Orange County considered adding forested land for land preservation assessment, the measure failed by a 3-2 vote. That was early 1995. Now, in a county considering options to keep development at bay and its countryside scenic, the measure passed easily 5-0 Tuesday night.
Following a public hearing Tuesday where 10 speakers voiced their support of the proposal, the board of supervisors wasted little time in adopting the measure that would tax forested land similarly to agricultural land.
Currently, 59 of 95 counties across the state employ land use on forestall land, including neighboring Albemarle, Louisa, Culpeper, Greene, Madison and Spotsylvania counties.
And while the measure supports language in the revised comprehensive plan to sustain and enhance agricultural uses, it comes with a price.
Orange County Administrator Bill Rolfe estimated the county would lose approximately $700,000 annually by not taxing forested land at its highest use. Board members chose to look at it as an investment in the county’s future rather than a cost.
If we start weighing the cost of replacing 200 acres of forest with 200 acres of homes, there’s no comparison, board chairman and District 1 Supervisor Mark Johnson said. There will be an initial, upfront cost, but I think in the long run, this is going to save the county money. It’s not guaranteed, but I don’t feel like this is a money-loser for the county.
Johnson summed up what many of the speakers had already said.
Forested land requires few county services, resulting in a lower tax burden, Douglas Harris said. Yet, it protects our wildlife habitat, generates oxygen and improves moisture retention in the soil.
We need to do all we can to encourage forestry owners to hold onto their land and grow it to maturity, Monk Sanford told the board. Referencing the dry spring followed by the heavy rains of the last week, he added, Forests hold more water than rooftops and pavement.
In order for forest land owners to participate in land preservation assessment for the tax year beginning Jan. 1, 2007.
Rolfe said the tax rate for forested land is determined by a state advisory board based on what timber sells for-much the same way taxes on agricultural land is determined. Those interested in participating in the program must file an application with the county.

News curtesy of Virginia Forest Watch





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