Slutzky Suggest Land Use Tax Reform

Albemarle BoS chair David Slutzky is toying with a significant overhaul to county taxation policy, Brandon Shulleeta writes in today’s Daily Progress, although he says it’s nothing more than idea, one that he’s not even sure that he’d vote for. The county provides a significant real estate tax cut to landowners in rural areas who agree to keep their land rural. The majority of the county’s land is enrolled in the program, $18M worth of tax breaks in all. A lot of folks are using the program as it’s designed. But some folks aren’t. Land speculators that aren’t planning on developing their land just yet can enroll their land, get tax breaks for as long as they want, and when they decide to develop it, they just pay the last few years of rollback taxes. Slutzky proposes requiring that, in order to get the tax break, rural landowners commit to permanently keeping their land rural by placing it in a conservation easement, so that neither they nor any future owners would be permitted to develop it. He figures it could bring in an extra $10M-$20M year in real estate taxes, revenue that would come in handy right about now.

Rodney Thomas, the Republican opposing Democrat Slutzky in this year’s election, doesn’t support Slutzky’s idea, and told the Progress:

I think it’s just taking the rights away from the individuals that own the land. I don’t think they [should] have to put their land into conservation easement just to prove that they aren’t going to develop some property. It’s their property. It belongs to them.

Slutzky doesn’t intend to do anything with this idea before the election, but says that he wants to learn more about it to see if it’s worth pursuing.

59 Responses to “Slutzky Suggest Land Use Tax Reform”


  • FWIW, Thomas’ criticism seems like a non sequitur to me. Rural landowners (which includes my family, including the land that I live on, not incidentally) have no fundamental right to a tax cut. No rights are being taken away from them. The county would simply offer to buy their rights. They can decline.

  • I don’t qualify for the land use tax break, so I feel that my taxes are higher to support that program. I don’t have a problem with that, until someone else “cashes in” by playing both sides of the law. I have neighbors that enjoy the land use tax break, and use the land for a 40 acre 4 wheeler course. Not sure if that is a legitimate use or not.

  • all land should be taxed the same. no tax breaks. complete equality. you want to own land, you pay like everyone else. flat tax. same rules for everybody. it’s simple, but i’m sure there’s plenty that will convince the majority of schlocks it’s not the “American Way”.

  • David Slutzky is talking about current land use that unfairly taxes Rio district compared with other district. He says he would like to use possible recovered funds from his proposal to reduce the property rate for Rio and other non land use taxpayers. And of course he wants to use part of that money to go toward other spending “needs”. If anyone thinks that the Supervisors will save any additional revenue savings for basically eliminating land use they will be sadly mistaken. We will spend it all after perhaps reducing the rate for just one year.

    This will adversely affect farmers who will now have only one of two options to keep their land – put it in mandatory conservation or pay the tax rate that everybody else pays- forgetting that farmers already pay full tax on their houses and about 2 acres (could be less) surrounding their house.

    Family farmers will of course have a third option – sell their land. Slutzky’s folly will force many land sales, this would end up having the reverse effect of allowing more development not less. Who else but developers will be able to afford the taxes? The current system values open space- open space that use very little if any county services. 100 acres of timber doesn’t need to send saplings to school, doesn’t need a water hook up or much of anything else. Open space isn’t demanding more county services-people are. And I do not think of current land use plan as a subsidy but recognition of the lower use of services and the value of open space. For those who disagree, answer me this- why is OK for childless couple, retirees, and people who send their kids to private school to subsidize public education? Can I find value in preserving open space as well as public education?

    Lastly this is nothing but an election year stunt by a politician who fears he’s about to become a one term supervisor. I listened to WINA Monday morning where Slutzky was shocked and disappointed that the Progress ran this article. Well OK then, just how did the reporter get all those quotes. He further went on to say he might not be in favor of it but wants to study it. He wants to study at great cost and staff time for something that the board has already voted against once. This is just another land scheme to replace his failed bid at TDR’s- he had no support on the board for that and he can’t get 4 votes for this with the current board.

    Is Mr. Slutzky just a taxes tease right before the election, only to find out after he wins that, gosh darn it just won’t work- sorry Rio. Perhaps he really wants to squeeze every last drop out of tax revenue out of the rural areas, no matter what the long-term effects are. Either is a great reason to vote for his opponent.

  • The basic question regarding the land use tax subsidy comes down to this; Can and should the county ask one sector of its population, that being growth area residents and rural residents who don’t qualify for the tax break, to pay 19 million dollar more in taxes to support the program. No one to date has put forth any objective evidence that this program does anything other then benefit the wealthiest land owners in the county. Validation is not the same as effectiveness and a program that accounts for about 11 cents of the 74 cents of our tax burden should be able to show a benefit to those who pay for it.
    It should also be mentioned that Mr. Slutzky is not asking to eliminate the program, rather he’s asking that those who get the break put their land in easement. I don’t agree with the view that somehow asking a farmer to put their land in easement will have an adverse effect on the day to day operation of county farmers. What it does do is make them decide if the land they own is a farm or if the land they own is an investment they can exercise when they’re ready for development. The decision for the BOS should this issue come before it is; do they want to continue to spend 19 million dollars to essentially rent development rights from rural land owners until they’re ready to sell them to developers.
    As for the opinion that if the program is changed it will cause rural land owners to sell their land, then they should examine the data from the county and PEC, which shows we have already lost thousands of rural acres to development already. In short, if Land Use was implemented to preserve rural land from development it has been a failure.
    If the objection to Mr. Slutzky’s recommendation is the change in the requirements will bring in more revenue, which the BOS will squander on such things as providing additional police officers and firefighters, there is an alternative. Ask the BOS to put any savings into the ACE program, which buys the development rights and allows REAL farmers to continue to farm.

  • If land use is canceled then I’ll sell my 20 acres to developers, more houses will be built, further straining the schools and roads and county infrastructure, hence raising taxes for all.

  • Waldo – I agree with you re: Rodney’s comment. The issue of property taxation is one completely independent and separate from property rights. What you can do with your land and what level it is taxed at should not be confused.

    Additionally, I imagine that the number of people who genuinely wouldn’t have sold to developers in the long run who feel forced to sell immediately or in the short run would be small. With further incentivizations in place – tax credits for easements that can be traded on the market for $0.80 on the dollar, for instance – I imagine that all who have no intention of selling ever will go in to easement, and many of those who would have an intention of selling way down the road as their retirement plan would take the permanent lower tax rate immediately as well because of the windfall from the easement tax credits (again, but one example of an extra preservation incentive built in to the program as it exists, with room for plenty more).

    Finally, as a general statement, I think this is a fair proposal. It is unfair that 95% of Albemarle is fronting the holding costs for a windfall investment held by 5% of Albemarle. So at the very least, this is a tax fairness issue. However and furthermore, it also: 1) protects rural lands; 2) ensures we give less money to the City under the revenue sharing agreement (a smart way to literally free up $9 million for the County); and 3) can result in residential property tax relief for 95% of the County’s citizens.

    As I have said before – this is a win-win-win-win. Slutzky should be applauded for a creative approach to this problem, and further applauded for not wedding himself to it before he and others have had an opportunity to thoroughly examine it. That’s thoughtful, non-ideological political leadership at its best.

  • The rural area pays for the urban area not the other way around. It’s about who uses service -bottom line. Rural land owners don’t get fair shake compared with urban residents. This proosal won’t save Rio voters a dime. He will spend every bit on something like places 29 or worse

    If Slutzky actually back his plan he might be brave- this is just pre-election pandering

  • Why is it that Slutzky only demonstrates “thoughtful, non-idealogical political leadership” right before the election?
    He sure didn’t do much in his current term on the BOS, except for his demonstration of his arrogrance. It is now time for the voters of the Rio district to turn him out.

  • This looks like the Healthcare “debate” on a local scale [like every issue in the US]: deadlocked before it even starts. Everyone has a self-serving motive. The United States of America is an oxymoron today. Except when it comes to “forners”, then yeah, we’re united for the betterment of the World. No doubt.

  • build it and they will whine

    Waldo if I have my farm in land use and the county says “no more land use”-that’s taking my current rights not paying for them. If Slutsky’s plan were approved I would have a choice, pay much higher taxes for land that isn’t using any additional county services or give up the possibility to ever develop the land (reducing what I could sell the land for).

    Either choice will cost me money in the the long run- that ain’t getting paid where I come from

  • Some responses: PV threatens he’ll sell his land if land use is discontinued. The fact is, it’s very hard to threaten us with something that happens every day in the rural area. I believe the average acreage lost in the rural areas each year is about 3,000 acres. So how do you convince the public the to continue to accept the loss of 19 million per year in lost revenue for a program that clearly is not preserving rural land? It would appear that PV will do what he would have done at a later date otherwise why would he have a problem in putting his land in easement? The fact is land use has been artificially inflating land values in the rural area by manipulating supply and demand. The question also has to be raised as to whether it’s the role of local government to manipulate the supply and demand of land, especially when it benefits only a small segment of its residents.
    As for Bryan’s assertion that the rural area pays for the growth areas, all I can say is I don’t agree. On a per home basis it cost more to provide services to rural homes then it does to provide services to growth area homes. 70 % of the county budget goes to the schools. Assuming that once a student is in class all costs per pupil are equal then one of the major costs per student is transportation and the further you transport a student the more it costs. The same is true for providing police and fire protection.

  • all land should be taxed the same. no tax breaks. complete equality. you want to own land, you pay like everyone else. flat tax. same rules for everybody. […]

    The problem with that is it doesn’t take into account those who’ve lived in the county for generations- who own large rural properties. People like that would be turfed out by the transplants who drove up the property values.

    And I think it might have been stated in one of the prior posts- I only skimmed shame on me- but I think you would run to high a risk of having people deciding to “cash out” guaranteeing lots of “by right” development.

    In short- It’s a really bad idea.

  • In short- It’s a really bad idea.[…]

    Yeah, says who? People who own land through generations and got it for free – or practically – and now don’t have to compete on a level playing field? Empire decline is inevitable is inevitable and that’s all you’re really proving.

  • Waldo if I have my farm in land use and the county says “no more land use”-that’s taking my current rights not paying for them.

    No, it’s not. That’s for two reasons.

    1. Land use must be re-registered every few years. (I forget the exact number.) No promise has been made that it is permanently available. In fact, that’s what’s being proposed here—if the county is going to make it available forever, then registrants must likewise promise to use it forever. Eliminating a program with a renewable three-year horizon is totally reasonable.

    2. The fact that you’re allowed to do something doesn’t meant that you have a “right” to do it. I let you post comments on this blog because, let’s face it, it would be pretty crappy if I didn’t let people post comments. :) But you don’t have any right to do so. I let you. Likewise, the county lets people have a tax break. But they have no right to a tax break. Eliminating that tax break doesn’t constitute any kind of a taking.

    There are lots of reasons why this might be a terrible idea, but the notion that it’s “taking [your] current rights” isn’t one of them.

  • There are some basic facts regarding land use that have to be made clear. Rodney Thomas and the person who posted above tried to make the point that removing Land Use would be a violation of their property rights. Besides the excellent points made by Waldo it should be pointed out there is no zoning designation in the county called “Land Use”. The land use tax breaks that people get are the result of a state program that allows it. The program is voluntary on the part of the county therefore there is no right to it. The program will last as long as the residents of the county deem the program of value to ALL the residents of the county. The land use program is like many other government programs that if they last long enough are viewed as an entitlement. Next, citizens of Albemarle county do not accrue additional rights based on length of residency. Finally, it should be pointed out once again that Mr. Slutzky has not suggested eliminating the program, rather applying a litmus test to those who want the tax break.

  • It should be noted that the current economic environment has really crushed the value of land for development. There are a number of large parcels of land, that could be developed, for sale with no known buyers. Most of the developers in town have enough real-estate on their hands (or have gone under) and financing for large developments in non-existent. I suppose that would make this a rather ideal for Mr Slutsky’s plan if the goal is to ensure that most folks opt into the conservation easement.

  • Slutsky’s proposal in effect says, Give up your rights to development your land forever or pay more in taxes. This is extortion on his part to get more money for the county to unwisely spend on useless programs.

  • Slutsky’s proposal in effect says, Give up your rights to development your land forever or pay more in taxes.

    Close, but you’re not quite there. His proposal says Give up your rights to develop your land forever or pay exactly as much in taxes as everybody else. That’s not “extortion.” You’re saying that those of who own big chunks of land in rural areas should receive special treatment from the government in exchange for…absolutely nothing. Although personally I think that’d be swell—I’d be happy to save on my tax bill—I can’t see that it makes much sense from a public policy perspective.

  • Give up your rights to develop your land forever or pay exactly as much in taxes as everybody else.

    So Waldo, what happens when say, I give up my land use rights but all my neighbors don’t and next thing I know, I’m surrounded by all this developed property. How long before local government decides that my undeveloped piece of property is the ideal site for their next High School? What then?

    People who own land through generations and got it for free – or practically – and now don’t have to compete on a level playing field?

    Dude what are you smoking?

    You want to level the playing field for transplants?

    And to level it just because someone else lived in a place no one else wanted to live at and did so for lets say 2 generations?

    And now that transplants have discovered the place and now want to live there too – you think there needs to be an equalizer? Why? To force those who won’t accept any dollar amount- to finally have to bend to the spending power of the almighty transplant?

    Forget it.

  • So Waldo, what happens when say, I give up my land use rights but all my neighbors don’t and next thing I know, I’m surrounded by all this developed property.

    I don’t understand the question. What about it? I’m reminded of now, when people complain about the people who built next door to them. If that’s so important to you, why didn’t you buy the land next door to you?

    How long before local government decides that my undeveloped piece of property is the ideal site for their next High School? What then?

    I think what you’re asking is whether undeveloped property is more likely to be condemned and used for a public purpose. I suspect that it is, but that’s as true whether you choose not to develop it in three-year increments or forever. Personally, though, I think that if the owner doesn’t get to develop it, neither does the government in the form of a taking. That’s a permanent deal between the government and the citizen, and both parties should have to uphold that deal.

  • After reading these comments, can someone tell me what the purpose is in owning more than a house and the lot it sit’s on, if you live in Albemarle County. Sounds to me like the government is just trying to figure out ways to tax individuals out of large acreage land ownership. This to me is a case of the have not’s those who don’t own land trying to tell those who own acreage what they can and can’t do with their land and if you don’t do as we say, we (local governing body) will tax you out of existence. Personally I like the open space in Albemarle County but the way it is going it will eventually be just another large county/city, with lots of transplants/”furniers” from god knows where. just my .02.

  • Jogger states this is a case of the have not’s trying to tell those who own acreage (the have’s) what they can and can’t do with their land. Unfortunately, he’s got it backwards. In 1991 the County did a report on Land use authored by Bob Tucker the County executive. In it he wrote the following: The cost of land use is not a hidden fact, since it is implicit in the concept of land use that the tax burden is shifted to other tax payers. In other words Jogger, it’s the have not’s who are picking up the 19 million dollar tab to pay for the tax breaks to the have’s.
    I’m glad you like the open space, unfortunately if you look at the data, Land Use has been a failure in protecting that open space.
    It also has to be remembered that when a “farmer” sells land that was in land use they don’t pay all the back taxes, rather they pay only the past 5 years. Once the land has been in land use for 5 years the owner is on the dole, which is why The Hook calls Land Use “Welfare for the rich”. Since most of the land eligible for land use is in fact receiving the land use tax break and has been for decades and since the county’s and PEC’s data shows that thousands of acres in land use have been loss to development a lot of money invested by the have not’s has gone down the crapper.

    No one has yet explained what is wrong with the county asking the “farmer” if their land is a farm or if their land and the development right’s it contains is an investment waiting to be exercised. If it’s a farm, then by all means support them with land use tax breaks. If it’s an investment, it’s not the obligation of the have not’s to subsidize the have’s till their ready to sell.
    Since the county is in the hole for 4 million dollars and is contemplating a tax increase they should, before any tax increase goes through, do two things:
    1. Define what the purpose of land use is and how it benefits ALL the citizens of the county.
    2. Show that land use shows a positive return on investment for ALL the residents of the county for the 19 million dollars lost in revenues this year and not just a transfer of wealth to the have’s.

  • “Amen” Bad News.
    I just have the good will to explain these things anymore.

  • I just DON’T have the good will… right!

  • After reading these comments, can someone tell me what the purpose is in owning more than a house and the lot it sit’s on, if you live in Albemarle County.

    The purpose?

    Well first off not everyone likes to live where all the neighbors can see into one anothers back yards and bedroom windows. And this is a lot of the newer developments- especially those aimed at transplants from larger areas where even that postage stamp back yard seems like a lot of space.

    Second- Some people (mostly non-transplants- all of the ones I know anyway) still farm (and I’m not talking about grapes. And not as a main income, but as a supplemental one). They aren’t rich, they don’t consider the amount of land one is able to own as a sign of personal wealth (the way it would be in a densely populated urban area), and they live modestly.

    Personally, though, I think that if the owner doesn’t get to develop it, neither does the government in the form of a taking. That’s a permanent deal between the government and the citizen, and both parties should have to uphold that deal.

    I agree with you Waldo. But I don’t have faith that Government would uphold their end of the deal – look at McIntire Park as one clear example.

  • One sided arguments, again and always. A real solution? Flat tax based on property value. That’s it. No favoritism, no loopholes, no partisanship, all out in the open. You’ve inherited property or it’s been in your family for generations? If you can’t pay taxes on its value, sell it or join the working-world.

    Farmers really farm? I’m not against subsidizing directly, verifiable crops, should market conditions swing too unfavorably for our local farmers. But we, and the US as a whole, need to lock down severely on all the loopholes that profit the rich and well-connected. A level playing field, that’s what we need. So merit becomes American once again, not all this royalty build-up crap we’ve been nurturing for the last 50 years on a massive scale.

  • But I don’t have faith that Government would uphold their end of the deal

    You think the rest of us have guarantees? Count your blessings you already have a leg up on all those “transplants”!!! Adapt, be productive, and pay your taxes like everybody else.

  • I don’t have faith that Government would uphold their end of the deal – look at McIntire Park as one clear example.

    I definitely share your concern there. We saw the same case out in Ivy a few years ago, when a homeowner got a court to agree that he could ignore the conservation easement present on the land. (Or some sort of a restriction in the deed—I can’t remember the specifics.) The logic was that, simply, the property had been transferred, and as such the new owner could do whatever he wanted with it. I think that’s anti-property bullshit, and I think it’s a very dangerous precedent. If I choose to sell somebody my home and property, but retain the timber rights for myself (for instance), the new owner doesn’t just get to timber the land because he wants to. They’re my rights, which I pointedly didn’t sell. If he didn’t like the deal, he shouldn’t have signed the contract. Ditto for any kind of restrictive covenant—it transfers with the property.

    So, yeah, the danger isn’t just that the government could ignore the restriction, but also that future owners could. This sort of thing is bad for private property owners, it’s bad for government, and it’s bad for society.

  • I see that in a lot of property sales here in Virginia: the owner sells the land but gets to keep rights, be they felling timber, mineral extraction, or some covenants and restrictions. THAT’S TOTAL BULLSHIT.
    You sell your land, that’s it. Allowances and restrictions should be controlled by democratic process. Mining et al determined by same. What has been created is class system, no better than racial divides.

  • WTF? Timber rights == racism?

    Listen, if I want to sell the right to timber my land, that’s my business. The converse is true: if I want to sell my land but retain the rights to timber it, that’s also my business. If I want to sell ten acres of my twenty acres, that’s my business. If I want to sell somebody joint tenancy by the entirety for a span of a decade that then reverts to me, that’s really none of your concern. If you don’t like it, don’t buy my land.

    If property rights can never be unbundled, then you’ve just undone the premise of real estate law in the whole of the western world (and, I suspect, beyond). The scenario that you envision is utterly unsustainable. A developer builds a neighborhood. Rule: You can’t have cars up on cinderblocks in your front yard. People buy houses and agree to that. Somebody sells their house to another guy. The new guy isn’t bound by those rules? You’re saying that the Board of Supervisors should have to get involved and pass a special law that says that nobody who lives in that neighborhood can put a car up on cinderblocks? A better form of democracy is the simpler one that’s closer to the people: don’t buy a house there if you want to put a car up on cinderblocks. That’s why I would never live in Forest Lakes. Nobody’s going to tell me what color to paint my door, whether I can shoot at cans with a .22, or how long I can leave my car up on blocks, should I so choose. But that doesn’t mean I’m angry at Forest Lakes. It means that I shouldn’t live there. So I don’t.

    You’re making an assertion without pausing for ten seconds to consider what you’re proposing. If you want to put forth an alternate theory of what the very premise of real estate law should be, go for it. But claiming that real estate law is inherently racist? That is “total bullshit.”

  • This is like a English guy talking to a Chinese Guy: no way they’re going to understand each other for anything more complex than “miam miam” or “gloo gloo”.

    You’re making an assertion without pausing for ten seconds to consider what you’re proposing

    Really? And you know this how? Because what I’m saying doesn’t fit into your narrow view of things?

    If property rights can never be unbundled, then you’ve just undone the premise of real estate law in the whole of the western world (and, I suspect, beyond)

    I really value your suspicions. But more to the point, let me explain to you in simple terms why our current system does not work: It’s in effect a pyramid scheme whereas the first comers win all and subsequent arrivers get a smaller and smaller piece of the pie, to the extent that today, we have late-comers required to support (pay disproportionate) taxes to support less and less productive descendents of 1st comers. This may not be clearly observable by people who can’t see further than the next can they’re shooting with their .22 longrifle (which may have actually hit their dumb buddy hanging around), but it is happening.

    Our entire social-economic system is degrading slowly but surely and that’s a fact. It’s due to people who don’t see the forest from the trees, like you.

  • Because what I’m saying doesn’t fit into your narrow view of things?

    I responded to “Sympa.” And now you, “Majunga,” are defending Sympa in the first person. Are you one and the same person? Or are you just confused about who I’m addressing?

  • No secret: same person. I have a bunch of computers and they save the last userID, whereas I didn’t remember the one I used before. Big deal. To my recollection, my only IDs here are Majunga, Majung (an attempt to remember but failed), and Sympa. Happy?

  • Why not disallow real estate development companies (ie. speculators) the use of land-use tax deferments? Leave everybody else alone.

  • But more to the point, let me explain to you in simple terms why our current system does not work: It’s in effect a pyramid scheme whereas the first comers win all and subsequent arrivers get a smaller and smaller piece of the pie, to the extent that today, we have late-comers required to support (pay disproportionate) taxes to support less and less productive descendents of 1st comers.

    You’re upset that some people are wealthier than others. So you’re proposing…what? Your proposal that I not be allowed to sell timber rights to my land helps this supposed problem…how?

    Your argument here is like an eager college freshman taking his first political science course. “End capitalism! Power to the people! No money in politics!” Yeah, sure, great ideas, kid. So what’s the alternative?

  • Why not disallow real estate development companies (ie. speculators) the use of land-use tax deferments? Leave everybody else alone.

    I think that’s the goal here, Steve. The trouble is defining a speculator within the law. One idea—Slutzky’s here, I think—is to require that folks lock in preservation permanently, which would seem to ID speculators pretty easily. But it would be interesting to try to come up with some other ways in which speculators are different than you and me, since perhaps there are some other criteria that would be less disruptive to base these restrictions on than the one Slutzky is looking at.

  • Hahahahahaha, Jaquith! So you’re the experienced guy and I’m the “Freshman” in Poli Sci? Hehe. Whatever… Whatever sells, right?

  • So what you’re saying is that you’re not capable of answering the question?

  • Unfortunately you cannot simply exclude real estate developers from land use. If they meet the criteria, then they’re “farmers”. Sometime it’s also difficult to identify whose going to cash in and when. Biscuit Run and Old Trail were in family hands, while North Pointe was owned by a real estate company.
    If Slutzky was smart he would put forth his program (requiring easements to qualify for land use) as one that will return any money gained from those who want to keep their development rights and pay the additional taxes and roll that money into tax relief for all. After all, I believe the Rio district is mainly growth area residents, who would benefit from the tax reduction.
    If he was really smart he would direct any money gained from additional taxes and plow it into the ACE program. I say smart because I’m assuming most of us both rural and growth area residents would like to retain the rural character of the county. It would be hard to attack him for potentially causing new development in the rural areas considering any money returned would in fact be going to “real” farmers who want to protect their property from development. Remember there have always been more people applying for ACE money then there was money available. Additionally, by using the money for ACE, it would mean that ALL residents are now bearing the burden to protect the rural areas and not just the “have not’s”.

  • Sorry Anotherview I don’t believe that Slutzky would do anything but spend any additional tax revenue for new programs that would provide zero long term savings. He might reduce taxes for a year or spend some money on the ACE program but that won’t last long. He has been the proponent for the highest tax rate every year. In a Daily Progress article this year Slutzky said, “I resisted my temptation to try and raise taxes” probably because it was an election year as much as anything else.

    Where is the talk about the fact that rural open lands use almost no services- puts almost no additional burden on the budget? If you want real tax equity then tax people with children in public school more-perhaps $1000 a year per child. We spend about $12,000 per student per year, so $1,000 a year is cheap for the parents that other taxpayers heavily subsidize. That would produce about $12 million a year. That money could pay for more teachers and better schools. We could use some of that money to pay for scholarships for those truly couldn’t afford it. Education makes up about 60% of the budget and people without children have to pay most of their taxes to a service they will never use. It’s also not equitable to tax those who pay for private education to pay for public education they will never use. If it weren’t for public education, growth might actually pay for itself(Of course I’m not really proposing any of this and in the Slutzky mode I’m just putting it out there.)

    In reality we pay for public education because we value it and we charge less for open space in land use because we value that as well. Slutzky’s folly would bring some short term revenue for what would be a long term lost of farmland. Personally I would have thought that he would have waited to see how re-validation worked and see if it added any money to county coffers but I guess that would have made too much sense in this election year.

  • You’re right again, Waldo. As usual. As always. Duh! I didn’t talk about flat taxation. I know, I know, it’s a pathetic idea. True democracy referendums versus the status-quo representative ‘style’ that is so effective – by all accounts I must add! – was not even mentioned by me. Bravo Jaquith, you are so right! Please continue to remind me how idiotic I am, even if it involves that perfectly wonderful two-step ‘ancient’ tactic of yours. Heil Jaquith, the new ‘old’ kid on the block.

  • Where is the talk about the fact that rural open lands use almost no services- puts almost no additional burden on the budget?

    There’s been lots of talk about that. But I’m aware of no actual data that demonstrate that’s so. I’d be curious to see some numbers that show what the difference is in demand on county services. There may be a real case to be made that the difference in service requirements is so significant (and, as you well point out, the desirability of open space is so great) that it’s worth providing a tax break on that basis alone, regardless of how long-term the commitment is.

  • You’re right again, Waldo. As usual. As always. Duh! I didn’t talk about flat taxation. I know, I know, it’s a pathetic idea. True democracy referendums versus the status-quo representative ’style’ that is so effective – by all accounts I must add! – was not even mentioned by me.

    Wait…what? You propose that instead of allowing people to sell lumbering rights to their land, that we…have a flat tax? What do these things even have to do with each other? Are you interested in or capable of discussing this in a manner that isn’t hyperbolic, defensive, sarcastic, and angry?

  • Fizweb,
    Your right, open rural land doesn’t use services, which is why we should preserve it. Unfortunately, if you look at the data, land use hasn’t done much to preserve it. Let’s put it another way. If I remember in 2005 or there about the county did a study on land use. The study showed that for the previous 10 years approximately 16 percent of the land in land use came out of the program, with the bulk of the loss going to development. During the same 10 years the county gave out over 100 million dollars in tax breaks. Only in government could you spend 100 million dollars to protect an asset, lose over 10 percent of that asset and call it a success.
    Your analogy to schools might bear some merit if it weren’t for the fact that public education by producing an educated public has proved to be a value to all, not so much for land use, which appears to benefit only a small percentage of the citizens of Albemarle County.
    Look, if you or anyone has data to support the program and shows its value, I’d like to see it. I called the Director of Finance at the county and asked for their financial analysis of the program and they haven’t done one. Considering that for each 74 cents of our tax money land use counts for 10 cents and I believe the county has an obligation to show value for the lost revenue.
    As for validation, I would remind you that validation is not the same of effectiveness.

  • Wait… what? It should be your land, wholly, or not. No one said you couldn’t have a 3rd party work on your land. But you would still need to pay all taxes on the whole value, including timbering and the value of it upon sale. That’s a business, clear and simple. I like keeping things that way. It prevents loopholes and complicating everything. But is that too hard for you?

    You seem to like the idea of hiding assets, owning but not really, looking for ways to screw the system. Heck, you’d be a Great Wall-Street Scheister, selling derivatives of partial rights of your land. The question remains, are you interested in or capable of discussing this in a manner that’s honest, productive and without selfishness?

  • Waldo- If I own 50 acres and 2 acres are in regular tax rate and the rest is in land use than it would difficult to say what what services the other 48 acres would use. That 48 acres might use fire perhaps, a little police, some environmental concerns but “we don’t educate cows”,that’s 60% of the budget. If this really goes further, you’re right, there would have to be better data (but you could take AnotherView’s word for it).

    AnotherView- I really don’t care how many people land use involves- I care about how much land stays in land use. Really, isn’t this about how much open space remains not who owns it? I am happy to pay some taxes to have open space just as I’m happy to pay for a public school system I’ve never used. My school analogy is apt because if land use is just about tax equity, public education proves that tax equity can be trumped by shared values. I believe most people value open space- some maybe even more than public education. Your concern seems more class welfare than open spaces concerns.

    Your data shows that land use helped in the largest building boom in my lifetime. That boom seems over- many proposed projects may never be built or being completed at a much slower pace. If land use hadn’t been here that number of acres lost would probably have been higher. Again your response puzzles me, because you seemed to be saying “Since land use wasn’t flawless during the housing boom we’re probably better off without any land use”? That’s not very compelling logic.

    And finally since many people value open space that revenue hasn’t been lost at all. The value of land in this area isn’t a linear math equation begat by a financial spread sheet. That’s why I have always had trouble properly valuing the lovely view out my window.

  • Fizweb,
    Again, you want to ignore the data, which shows land use has not fulfilled the promise of preserving rural land from development. Furthermore, Slutzky’s proposal does NOT eliminate the land use program, it only requires those who want to take advantage of the tax break put their land in easement. As for taxes, if you take the time you’ll see that I have no problem in using my tax money to retain the rural character of the county. I just want to see a return on my investment, which can be seen in the ACE program. The way I see we have two choices, continue to rent the development rights in the rural area as we are now under land use or purchase the development rights and keep real farmers farming and your view shed intact. Then again, if you can’t see the logic in not wanting to see double digit losses in your investments, what can I say.

  • Well, Majunga/Majung/Sympa, I can see that we’re done here. You’re unable or unwilling to back up the gauntlet you threw down. You want to throw away our existing legal system, but cannot propose an alternative. You can’t quite describe what the problem is; some people own more land than you, I gather, and you’d like to eliminate real estate law as it exists so that you can have as much as everybody else. Or something like that. So…uh…good luck with that.

  • some people own more land than you, I gather, and you’d like to eliminate real estate law as it exists so that you can have as much as everybody else

    Now this comment of yours is golden: it exemplifies exactly what I have been trying to explain to you, but you refuse to even understand the premise (agreeing would be impossible, I’m sure)… For you, it cannot possibly be otherwise that a person can stand for something righteous not in his immediate financial interest. You can’t even fathom the idea!
    But I will grant you being right on one point: there’s not much to discuss since we’re evolving on entirely different planes.

  • “For you, it cannot possibly be otherwise that a person can stand for something righteous not in his immediate financial interest. You can’t even fathom the idea!”

    What in the world are you yammering about Majung? You have the temerity on this free site provided by your host to actually say this? Waldo has tried to give us a forum to discuss ideas at no cost to you and he doesn’t understand? You must have little awareness of his other free sites like project sunlight and others that Waldo has selflessly provided to the people of Virginia.

    His comments are golden compared to your leaden rant and no amount of logical alchemy will change that.

  • What the hell am I doing in this beehive? I must have had a death wish or some mental lapse. Please let me go peacefully. [running away as fast as I can…]

  • Okay, here’s some big misconceptions… First of all, regarding “cows don’t go to school”, that may be true but it’s bogus economics. Here’s why… If we assume the property is going to be developed (and we probably should since a conservation easement is “out of the question”.) then when it is developed then it will then mean new bridges, roads, water, and yes, schools for all the new people that live there. Worst case senario, if we drop land-use taxation today and Joe Speculator sells to a developer then we build that infrastructure now at 2009 prices. If the landowner holds onto it until the peak of the market fifteen years later and then sells then we’re building new infrastructure at 2024 prices (and at the peak of the market). In addition, if they build now then we get ten more years of tax revenue than if they build later. In addition, thanks to revenue sharing we lose money on properties in land use taxation since the tax break isn’t factored into the equation.

    Okay, now all this said, it isn’t an either/or situation. Revalidation has actually been far more successful than I ever thought it could be. So far, A huge number of landowners chose to put their land under easement or join a forestry district. Even so, last time I looked, about 15 percent of people were going to leave the program (presumably because they never should have qualified in the first place). So revalidation is a very good first step.

    Another good option might be temporary easements. That means that if you wanted to subdivide, you’d have pay five years back taxes fr leaving the program then wait 10 years or something like that. This would eliminate speculators from the picture, but allow for estate planning.

    Other options could be creating new incentive programs to replace Land Use taxation that are based more on the services rural landowners provide, instead of some vague notion of “open space”.

    Anyway, there are lots of ways to reform it without totally getting rid of it.

  • Dirt Worshiper – Well said, but do you really think anyone on the BOS besides Slutsky is going to buck wealthy land owners who see land use as an entitlement?
    Granted I’m not sure Slutsky would plow any money gained as the result of changes to the land use program back to the tax payers or into ACE, but at least he’s asking questions.
    When asked about land use in a recent debate Rodney Thomas is quoted as saying the following: “Farmers would not be able to afford to run their farms if the program was done away with… I don’t know of any land use participant that is a land speculator… I can’t imagine anyone in the County doing that.”
    Who does Mr. Thomas owns North Pointe which was in land use. What about other properties in our growth areas that were owned by developers, yet were/are still getting land use. What does he call someone who holds on to their land only to sell it to developers as happened in Biscuit Run and Old Trail. Mr. Thomas has stated he see’s land use as a property right.
    At any rate I think your on the right track.

  • build it and they will whine

    Biscuit Run was only sold after the owner died, to call the former land owner a speculator is just wrong. He lived here for decades. Slutsky isn’t being brave he’s calculating that Rio voters will be snowed by this false promise. Slutsky said in the same forum that he put forth this suggestion because only 40 parcel in his district were in land use and he wanted to do what’s best for Rio voters.

    Mark my words, from here on out he will be all about protecting the environment because he really has upset people with this plan to eliminate land use. As for wealthy land owners in Albemarle and Slutsky you might want to check his donors. It’s a list of developers and wealthy Albemarle land owners- who have probably already put their land in conservation easements and think everyone else should do just like them.

  • With regard to Biscuit run I found this quote from an article in Cville weekly from 2006.
    “It’s been the Breedens’ plan from the beginning to eventually sell off the property. David’s father, I.J. Breeden, bought the land in the mid-’70s, confident that its value would skyrocket. It was the elder Breeden’s master plan to develop the land and split the profits among his heirs.”
    Sounds like land speculation to me.

  • For what it’s worth, I don’t think that there’s anything fundamentally wrong with land speculation. It’s a legitimate form of investment like any other. But I don’t think that we should award tax breaks to folks who are in that business, because I can’t see any that it serves any public interest that we need to encourage.

  • So if I buy land and hold it for 35 years that makes me a speculator? I think that’s a stretch. To buy land and sell it in a few years fits but decades?

    AnotherView, how long do I have to hold a piece of land where I am not a speculator? 50 years- multi- generations with over a 100 years? Just be because you bought to one day sell it doesn’t make you speculator- investor sure.

  • Bryan,
    You miss the point. As Waldo stated in the post before yours, there’s nothing wrong with you owing land with development potential and holding it for a time you choose to sell those development rights be that 5 years or 50 years. I just don’t want to subsidize your tax bill while your waiting for the right price. So, once more I’ll explain that Slutsky’s proposal is NOT to eliminate land use. What he saying is in order to get the tax break your land has to be in easement. It’s then up to the rural land owner whose land has development rights to make a decision, that called free will and the result of the county forcing the decision to be made leads to something called the free market.

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