Board acts to protect Crisman farm

WOODSTOCK – Shenandoah County leaders agreed this week to help protect another farm from development.

The Board of Supervisors voted 6-0 on Tuesday to adopt a resolution to approve and accept a conservation easement from Heubert J. and Mary F. Crisman. The Crismans sought to deed a conservation easement on their 32.56-acre property at 1395 S. Fort Valley Road in Fort Valley. The Shenandoah County Conservation Easement Authority will hold the easement after approval by the supervisors.

The Crismans began the process of putting the property into an easement more than a year ago and worked with county planner Jill Jefferson and the Conservation Easement Authority.

The Crisman property is a charitable donation as allowed under state code. The owners will donate the easement at no cost to the county. However, the property’s small size means the applicant does not qualify for stewardship through traditional state agencies or nonprofit land trust organizations, according to Jefferson. The owner instead requested that the county and the authority act as stewards of the easement.

The Crisman property’s values for conservation include water protection, buffers along creeks, woodland habitat, open space, farming, scenic views, and forestry. The property includes improvements such as the owners’ home that cover 1.5 acres with the remaining 31 acres serving as open space for protection.

The relatively small size of the proposed easement played a role in the process taking as long as it did. Jefferson explained that traditional easement holders, both public and private, focus on larger sites and the Crisman property would cost too much to place in an easement. This also makes it difficult for owners like the Crismans to find a suitable easement holder. The Crismans represent a niche market not met through traditional public or private holders, Jefferson has said.

The only cost to the county to hold the easement includes the annual site inspections and reporting of the results to the state. County employees can perform the annual inspections, Jefferson said.

County code calls for the Board of Supervisors and the Conservation Easement Authority to separately review the request and to consider adopting any motion for the authority to hold the easement for the county.