The James City County Board of Supervisors discussed purchasing land or conservation easements of land within the county but could not come to a consensus on whether the time is right at its Tuesday work session.
The county has $3.9 million available in the Greenspace account and $637,000 in the Purchase of Development Rights account. The county is looking to purchase four properties for Greenspace and has six pending PDR applications. If the pending negotiations are successful, excess funding would be required. The assessed value of the four Greenspace parcels is more than $11 million, but the cost could be less if easements were negotiated rather than outright purchases.
Staff said the deadline for borrowing the $14 million the county was authorized to borrow in the 2005 referendum is November 2013, but the county can request a two-year extension from the Circuit Court. Staff thinks the board should acquire additional land and should borrow the funds now because of low interest rates.
According to a staff memo to the board, if the $14 million was borrowed now, the debt service would be about $800,000 per year over a 20 year term.
Staff suggested hiring a “limited-term employee” or making a “contractual arrangement” to negotiate land sales or conservation easement sales. Current staffing levels don’t provide for effective work at purchasing land, staff’s memo to the board read.
Ultimately, the board did not agree on how the process should go, if at all.
Roberts Supervisor John McGlennon said though he recognizes certain aspects of the program need to be assessed, he believe it makes sense and sees a number of reasons to pursue the program. Jamestown Supervisor Jim Icenhour wanted to know the costs involved with getting extra manpower and what processes could be executed to generate citizens’ willingness to sell land or development rights.
Berkeley Supervisor Mary Jones was opposed to the idea of buying more land because, she said, the county already owns 36 percent of the land in the county. She said she has concerns with the timing and whether it is right to spend $14 million on more land.
Stonehouse Supervisor Jim Kennedy said he wants to see what the cost is for purchases before moving forward. The problem with the referendum is the county decided to borrow money without a spending plan and now there’s a deadline.
Kennedy said he is concerned about the economy and is going to look at things as a business person. With business closures around the county with no rapid improvement, he is unsure it would be wise to spend money where it is not necessary and wants to make sure the new employee hired to negotiate land sales is working in the county’s best interest.
McGlennon said it is important to keep in mind that while the economy has changed, land value can only increase because no more land can be made.