In recent weeks, a number of articles in the Northern Virginia Daily have mentioned the county's efforts to kickstart a land protection program, including my own column in the Daily, "Local land conservation fosters economic development" on May 2. There have been comments about the value of the county's investment in rural land and whether this is right for the county.
Let me give some facts: Land protection programs are proven strategies to keep a county rural, strengthen agriculture and keep taxes low. Eliminating development rights on important agricultural soils today at a fraction of the actual cost is a smart investment. This small investment now to create a sustainable program will provide long-term protection for the valuable working lands of Shenandoah County. This protection ensures the land's lasting contribution to our strong farming sector, spares every taxpayer the perpetual cost of providing public services in our rural areas, and helps maintain the county's rural agricultural integrity.
We heard from the experts at our Farm-to-Table dinner on April 10, including Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture Matt Lohr, who said, "The more steps we can take today to protect the land for agriculture, the better off the industry and our society will be."
And for nearly 10 years, we heard from Shenandoah County residents who want the county to remain rural with a strong agriculture sector and asked for a plan to achieve that vision. Our supervisors have done this by forming the Conservation Easement Authority and appointing qualified, well-respected citizens to serve on it.
The county's modest investment now to protect our most productive working lands will be offset in the future by the long-term strength of our agriculture community - directly impacting economic development, lowering taxes because providing services to new homes in and around our towns is less expensive than in our rural areas and improving the general well-being of our county for the next generation.
I hope you will join me in supporting our supervisors as they invest in our county's future to ensure that vision for our community.
Seth Coffman, Edinburg