Land conservation bill heads to House floor with a fix

February 4, 2019

HB 2755 (Fariss), which seeks to make it easier to preserve open-space lands, has advanced out of the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee and will be heard on the House floor.

As introduced, the bill initially sought to eliminate a key provision of Code of Virginia relating to Conservation Easements, striking the entirety of § 10.1-1010(E), which provides that “[n]o conservation easement shall be valid and enforceable unless the limitations or obligations created thereby conform in all respects to the comprehensive plan at the time the easement is granted for the area in which the real property is located.”

VACo met with Delegate Matthew Fariss several times and expressed concerns that this was far too broad a change and would result in significant problems for counties, particularly if conservation easements are granted in what had been designated as high growth areas in the counties’ comprehensive plans.

Ultimately, after discussions with VACo and several land conservation organizations, including The Nature Conservancy, Delegate Fariss amended his bill.  As amended, the bill still strikes § 10.1-1010(E) but now inserts the following language: “The use of the real property for open-space land shall conform to the official comprehensive plan for the area in which the property is located.”

As amended, HB 2755 reported from Committee 21-0 and will be voted on by the full House this week.

VACo Contact: Chris McDonald, Esq.

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