Loudoun Supervisors Tweak Conservation Easement Assistance Program

The Loudoun Board of Supervisors has modified an initiative meant to help more people permanently protect their land from development, the Conservation Easement Assistance Program.

Introduced by Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) and approved in 2018, the program has seen adjustments over time to try to encourage more families to make use of it. The program offers grants to help defray the cost of putting land in conservation easement, on the theory that doing so may be prohibitively expensive to some otherwise interested families.

According to a county staff report, since its creation, the program has received four applications, of which two exceeded the program’s income requirements. One of those was approved anyway because the applicant’s income was not significantly higher.

On Sept. 21, supervisors voted unanimously to both increase the amount of money the program gives out, and to loosen the income restrictions on applying the funding. The program’s grants covered up to half the upfront costs of establishing an easement, up to $15,000. That was increased to $25,000.

And previously, the gross household income for family-owned properties had to be below 115% the Area Median Income, or $144,900. That was raised to $155,938. And for family trusts and Limited Liability Corporations, the highest earner’s income is not counted against the income limit.

2020 was a near-record year for land put into easement, according to the staff report, with more than 2,500 acres protected. That was higher than any recent year except 2015, which had several unusually large easements including one 912-acre easement.

This article was updated Oct. 5 at 5:37 p.m. to correct an error in the headline.

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