CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (WOAY) – On Friday, July 12, 2019, one of the most significant open space land conservation easements in Virginia’s state history was recorded in Albemarle County. The property, referred to as “Presidential Estates”, spans 4,500 acres –approximately seven square miles – more than half the size of the city of Charlottesville.
“West Virginia Governor Jim Justice and the Justice family are pleased to make this record easement donation helping to protect central Virginia’s natural beauty and ensuring open space and the rich history of this area are preserved in perpetuity,” said Jay Justice.
The easement donated by the property’s owner, James C. Justice Companies, Inc., forfeits hundreds of development rights that would have otherwise resulted in a vast development. By donating the open space easement on the property, the Justice family who owns James C. Justice Companies, Inc., is ensuring the property’s usage will remain in timberland and agriculture in perpetuity, and will never be developed.
Presidential estates, located just a few miles from downtown Charlottesville, is in the viewshed of Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, as well as Montalto on the Monticello Estate. It is nestled between Monticello, Morven and Ash Lawn Highlands, James Monroe’s home. The Albemarle Conservation Easement Authority accepted the easement on April 11, 2019 and formalized its acceptance this week. The Justice family worked collaboratively with a number of local and state conservation groups, in addition to Albemarle County, including: the Piedmont Environmental Council, the Virginia Department of Forestry and the Monticello Foundation to ensure the terms of the easement property captured the spirit of the transaction to extinguish over 450 development rights into perpetuity and ensure future generations of Virginias will be able to enjoy the unobstructed beauty and history of Presidential Estates and its neighboring estates.
In a June letter to the Justice Companies, Leslie Greene Bowman, President of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, said that the Foundation is “grateful and pleased” that the company is recording the conservation easement, going on to say “If left unprotected, this extensive land holding has the potential to accommodate as many as 460 residential buildings. Subdivision and development of the land to that extent would have a devasting impact on the viewshed from Monticello and would negatively impact the historic setting experienced by our visitors.”
Mike Santucci, Forestland Conservation Manager for the Virginia Department of Forestry, echoed the importance of this marquee transaction in a May letter of support to the Justice Companies. In it, he says “[Presidential Estates] is an important component of the regional working forest landscape. According to VDOF’s Forest Conservation Value Analysis (2018), approximately 2,657 acres of the property are ranked as having “High” or “Very High” (the top two categories) forest conservation value. In addition, the property contains over eighteen miles of watercourses, which contribute to the aquatic habitat and public drinking water supplies of communities downstream.”