Summary: Board did not grant the applicant’s Request... they did not deny it either.
A warning - this all gets complex:
First, a huge thanks to the over 385 folks that wrote in on this issue. Truly a remarkable response and an indication of how much people care about the Reserve and the integrity of our prime farmland and public trust in local government. Bravo!
Second big thanks to Peter Gimbrere, Kerri Cook on behalf of the town of Poolesville, Dolores Milmoe, Marie Shepard, The League of Women Voters, and Ginny Barnes for their strong in person testimony.
Hooray for Barnesville and Poolesville (both wrote in)- the municipalities that treasure the Reserve!
The hearing can best be described as a waaay down county board and staff wrestling largely ineffectively (and/or disinterested) with up county/Reserve issues. Board and some staff folks seemed confused over key points. Some Staff had key facts incorrect.
But both Chair Anderson and board member Patterson voiced strong concern about approving this request wo knowing what the applicant is proposing to do.... “it’s a wild card,” said Tina Patterson.
In the end the Board asked the applicant, clearly now stated as Duffy builders, to bring their pre-preliminary plan for subdivision and at that time the board will review the particulars. Be clear: the board stated that the provision of ZTA 17-06 which allows for farm labor housing in the Reserve without needing a development right (TDR) would be applied uniformly and therefore to this property. So the applicant frees up 2 TDRs. Would these be buildable on the farm remainders, effectively undermining the protection of the prime farm remainders? Or would the Duffy folks be able to sell the TDR’s? That would be the subject of future debate.
Chair Anderson and Planning Director Gwen Wright indicated that staff will address the important issues we raised with the developer and land seller placed covenants that limit farming on all 3 of the subdivided parcels as well as non- conformance with hard fought condition requiring public access/maintenance of the public use trail.
Please Take Action Before Sunday (6/16)! Enter your address to send a quick email to the Planning Board to oppose more fragmentation and loss of farmland in the Reserve!
1. The protected 370 acres of farmland created through 2010 Barnesville Oaks Subdivision (developer NV Homes has named it The Estates at GreenTree Farm) has been purchased by a new owner. This owner now seeks to undo the farmland protections imposed in 2010 by the County Planning Board to ensure that the 370 acre lot be preserved as farmland and not subdivided.
2. And… we discovered that the sale of the farm lots and building lots that were created in 2010 have covenants (read the full covenants below) that are now in direct conflict with the terms the Planning Board mandated with the 2010 subdivision approval. That’s right…both the original landowner and developer NV Homes placed covenants that will not allow farming in the Agricultural Reserve!
• Background: (and bear with us as this is detailed and a wee bit complex):
In 2010 despite significant community effort to minimize suburban development (Barnesville Oaks) of the Reserve’s last, largest farm, the County Planning Board, under Chair Francoise Carrier, approved a substantial subdivision on Peach Tree Road of 26 lots.
• The gives to the developer were big:
1. clustering of pods of 26 small suburban style lots.
2. clearcutting of nearly 40 acres of ecologically valuable forest.
• The tradeoff, the public was assured, was to:
1. provide for the perpetual preservation of 2 large farm lots (370 and 410 acres) to guard against further fragmentation and loss of productive farmland.
2. AND, in order to protect the large remaining farm lots, the Planning Board limited
the number of approved lots and further provided by covenant the retention of a building right for each existing tenant homes on the farm.
• Now in 2019, the folks who recently purchased (at $7000/acre- reasonable for farmland – a song for land to be developed) the 370 acre farm want to retroactively apply a zoning text amendment created in 2017NOT to count existing tenant houses in the density of Barnesville Oaks. The allowed density for Barnesville Oaks in 2010 was 26 because the Planning Board counted 7 tenant homes as part of the full build out of 33 lots. They did so to mitigate the suburbanization of farmland that this large development represented. Please note that in general, a landowner is NOT entitled to full density by right and that the Planning Board has latitude to allow for fewer lots depending on circumstances.
2. And now the landowner applicant asks that this zoning text amendment be applied to the Barnesville Oaks property, already subdivided. They did not own the farm at the time of the zoning text change and did not participate in preservation, still retaining 67 building rights (TDRs) that can be sold for development receiving areas elsewhere. Clearly the motive may be to enable subdivision of the 370 acres at some point.
Planning staff has recommended for approval of this plan WITHOUT CONDITION
However, the staff recommendation makes clear that approval of the request does not change the Planning Board’s original findings but the board must act to ensure that they do not upend those findings.
• Take Action: PLEASE EMAIL THE PLANNING BOARD: Ask them to honor the commitment and decision made by the Planning Board in 2010 to ensure that the protected farm lot remain protected from subdivision. Moreover, we should ask that the Planning Board to defend the requirement that the property, including the land sold to NV homes, not be subject to anti-farming covenants. (Read the Covenants with non-farming provisions highlighted Barnesville Oaks (p3), NV Homes GreenTree Farms p 10 and East Peach Tree Rd. Farm Remainder (p.12))
Town of Barnesville
Town of Poolesville
County Office of Agriculture
Royce Hanson, Former Chair of the Planning Commission, Architect of the Reserve