BOS endorses state forest

Published 1:55 pm Wednesday, November 20, 2019

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In a unanimous vote, the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors (BOS) agreed during its Nov. 13 meeting to give the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) a letter in support of a state forest that would be located in the county, but not before one supervisor expressed her concern for lack of data.

Harvey Darden, agency lands director with VDOF, addressed the BOS on Sept. 11, seeking a letter of support from the county that he says will help in applying for grant funds, but the issue was tabled when several supervisors had questions.

The (VDOF) is in discussion with The Conservation Fund (TCF) for the purchase of 4,944 acres of land currently owned by Stanley Lumber Company in Charlotte County in hopes of turning it into a state forest.

The land is adjacent to Double Bridges Road and Mossingford Road near Drakes Branch.

“Currently, there is no state forest in Charlotte County, and this property would provide access and recreational opportunities to citizens that wish to hike, bike, horseback ride, hunt or enjoy nature at no cost to the county,” said Darden.

During the September meeting, Darden told the board that the VDOF does not pay real estate taxes on property, but with the purchase of the land, the county would receive 25% of any timber sales.

“I looked up the current tax value … on these parcels, and it’s $37,532,” he said. “I’m not going to stand here today and say you’re going to get a check for X number of dollars every year from timber sales because it varies quite a bit. It may be a few dollars. It could be $100,000.”

It was during that meeting that Wylliesburg/Red Oak Supervisor Kay Pierantoni addressed the lost tax revenue issue and noted that she needed more questions answered, such as the amount of harvested timber. “I have tried repeatedly through staff, and the Department of Forestry to get this information,” Pierantoni said during the Nov. 13 meeting. “It is concerning that this data wasn’t available without me having to ask. Still, I do not have a clear picture. After many requests and follow up by me, I was provided a schedule that shows it is timber on the property that could be cut and generate enough value to offset real estate taxes for the next 10 years. However, I highly suspect that some of these stands of timber will not be harvested.”

The supervisor said she needed a site map to shine more light on the topic. “After repeated requests, I have not been given that. I suspect it is because, with the site map, I would be able to identify why some of these stands will not be cut,” said Pierantoni.

Before the vote, Pierantoni said that even though she thinks a state forest is a wonderful thing for the county and she realized that “there are probably enough votes on our Board, regardless of my decision, to pass the letter of support” she believed that it was her duty as an elected official to press to obtain the financial impact the forest would have on the county.

“So, here’s the bottom line for me. I will vote for the State Forest,” she said. “I hope our citizens will be allowed to hunt after obtaining a state hunting permit. I hope our citizens will have hiking trails and maybe even horse trails at some point in the future but from my study of the data, I believe the bottom line is that it will cost us in lost tax revenue. I suspect when averaged out, maybe the cost will be $20,000 per year. As previously stated, I don’t have enough data to be sure. So, I just have to go into this knowing it will cost us.”