On April 27th, 2016 – at a public auction the Fayette County Farmland Protection Board purchased an 84 acre farm locally known as the Whitlock Farm. The winning bid was placed by board Treasurer Bill Hauer. The purpose of the purchase was to preserve the farm for future agricultural purposes. Located along WV16 between Oak Hill and Fayetteville, the farm is also easily accessible to US19 and Wolf Creek Park. This makes the property an ideal location for economic development through agriculture. Agriculture was recently identified by the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority as a significant economic growth sector for the region.
The concept of purchasing the Whitlock Farm at public auction was first proposed by Fayette County Farmland Protection Board Coordinator, Brian Smith. Smith proposed the purchase to the board knowing that the auction date was looming but hopeful that the concept would find the support it needed. “I really wasn’t sure that it could be done in time,” said Chairman Adam Hodges, “it was a great concept but short time frame. Brian worked diligently to move it through every step of the process to make certain we would be ready to place a bid today.” The Fayette County Commission must approve all major purchases of the Farmland Protection Board.
By purchasing the property the board will be able to place an agricultural easement on the property and then offer it for purchase through a public sale. By doing so, the land will be valued for agricultural purposes and is expected to be sold at a much lower price that would be more reasonable for agricultural use. Property value can be a major barrier for individuals looking to start or expand a career in agriculture.
“With the loss of coal in Fayette County and economic declines throughout the county and state this idea was an intriguing idea presented to the county commission and embraced. It was time sensitive so working out the details was challenging. Recognizing the potential benefits of this purchase, Brian Smith, the board of directors, and the prosecutor’s office acted efficiently and the necessary steps were taken. It is exciting, innovative and a great way to start thinking outside the box for future economic development and growth in our county. This purchase offers many possibilities for the Farmland Protection Board and the people of Fayette County! I, as a commissioner, am proud to serve on the Farmland Protection Board. I congratulate the board and thank them for their hard work and dedication!!” – Commissioner Denise Scalph
Generally the board works with existing farmers to place easements on property and pays those individuals for the loss of development potential on their property. Property easements can range from 1,200 – 3,600 dollars per acre, but can potentially cost more than 3,600 per acre depending upon the development value of the property. This is the first time the board has actually purchased a property instead of an easement.
The Fayette County Farmland Protection Board receives funding through county land transfer tax stamps and is established through WV State Code. 8A-12-1 (a) states “The Legislature hereby finds and declares that agriculture is a unique “life support” industry and that a need exists to assist those agricultural areas of the state which are experiencing the irreversible loss of agricultural land”.
For more information contact:
Coordinator, Brian Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-574-4717
Chairman, Adam Hodges at email@example.com or 304-610-5655