Agrarian Trust

Virginia Farm Needs Farmer, and a Plan

by Courtney Langley from the Virginia Gazette

James City

JAMES CITY – The county is looking for a good realtor to help assess, market and sell a 100-acre farm and a residential lot, both in the upper county.

The request for proposals issued Thursday afternoon outlines interest in selling the Crawford house the county acquired last year, as well as a 101-acre farm at the back of Oakland Estates.

The county bought that farm, along with an adjacent 23-acre conservation easement, in the summer of 2007 with $1.36 million in greenspace funds, according to county records.

Although the county paid $1.2 million, or $12,000 per acre, for the farm in 2007, its assessed value has since dropped by more than $400,000 to an assessed value of $763,600, according to county property records.

At the time, the county purchased it to “preserve the property’s rural landscape and farmland,” the June 2007 resolution approved by the Board of Supervisors notes.

The farm drained to the conservation easement from what Stormwater Director Fran Geissler described in 2009 as “fragile and highly erodible soils.”Heavy erosion and sedimentation were scouring the headwaters of Yarmouth Creek at the back of the neighborhood and property owners complained of standing water and flooding.

Later that year, the county completed a $240,000 channel restoration project at the site.

Although the adjacent farm will likely be put on the market, it is not served by public water and sewer, is zoned for agricultural use and may retain some restrictions. “It’s going to be up to the Board (of Supervisors), what they want out there,” Assistant County Administrator Adam Kinsman said in an interview Friday. “Is the Board going to be looking to see intense development out there? I don’t think so…”

Kinsman intimated as much in an email to supervisors Thursday afternoon that was later released to the Gazette.

“The county mitigated environmental issues on the property caused by years of farming and has effectively protected the headwaters of the Yarmouth Creek,” he wrote. “I believe that the county can place an easement on all or a portion of the 101 acres and continue to achieve the environmental protections sought in 2007, while recouping some of our investment through the sale of all or a portion of this large parcel.”

Part of the request for proposals includes an evaluation of what the property will be worth if subdivided into two or more parcels. Kinsman said he has to discuss with the finance department whether the proceeds from any sale will be returned to the greenspace fund.

At the same time, the county is looking to sell the 3.7-acre Crawford parcel off Church Lane in Toano that it bought last year to accommodate reconstruction of Fire Station 1.

The county bought the parcel and home for $390,000, sidestepping condemnation proceedings that would have cost an estimated $500,000 and delayed the firehouse project for a year or more.

As part of the deal, the Crawfords continued to occupy the home and pay $1,750 monthly rent to the county. They are planning to vacate in September, according to the request for proposals.

The land and home together are assessed at $295,400 according to county property records.

Kinsman cautioned that hiring a real estate broker doesn’t mean that sales are a foregone conclusion. Any sale would be subject to a public hearing and approval by the Board of Supervisors.

Langley can be reached by phone at 757-345-2346.