I’m standing with clients gazing out over a beautiful landscape, lush pastures dotted with angus, a trout stream rushing below and the Blue Ridge mountains rising above it all…perfect. But, what might happen at that farm straight ahead or what could happen to that farm just downstream? How many houses could they build? How many townhomes?
“Things have changed so much where we’re coming from. It used to be country and now there are stoplights, strip malls, fast food places and traffic. How can we be sure that won’t happen here?”
In most cases you can rely on local zoning ordinances that will describe exactly how property can be used and sub-divided in various zoning categories. In a growth area, dense residential development is encouraged while in agricultural zoning, it is typically more restrictive with allocated division rights and minimum acreage requirements. It’s important for buyers to take a look at zoning maps and regulations which are different in each county to see how the property they are interested in might be affected by it’s surroundings.
One way to be absolutely confident that your surroundings will not change is to find that rare property that is completely surrounded by properties under conservation easement. Fortunately for those of us who appreciate the unspoiled countryside, there are several pockets of farms and estates where land owners have dedicated easements to conservation groups like the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, Piedmont Environmental Council or the Sierra Club. These easements limit subdivision of properties and building rights in perpetuity in order to maintain the rural nature of the area.
High Fields is also part of this concerted neighborhood effort to protect this entire valley and has its own conservation easement with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. The easement will allow the property to be sub-divided one time and a new residence can be built on the divided parcel if desired. The existing home which is perfectly suited to luxurious downsizing can also be modified as desired.
“Under all is the land” That’s how the preamble to the Realtors Code of Ethics begins and that is what real estate really is. Legal property descriptions accurately describe the land and simply state, “and all improvements” whether it be a shack or a mansion.
The land market encompasses a broad spectrum from residential lots, to large tracts of farm land, from high density commercial zoning to low density mountain land. Each requires a broker to have special expertise and a knowledge of each county’s zoning regulations and requirements.
As a broker specializing in country property for more than thirty years, I have helped clients buy and sell land in all seven counties surrounding Charlottesville. From mountain top lots in Greene County to thousand acre farms in Southern Albemarle, each have their nuances and highest and best use.
If you are thinking of purchasing land in the near future to build your dream home with amazing mountain views, perhaps a weekend cottage at 2200’ feet in the Blue Ridge Mountains or are looking for the perfect 20 acres for a horse farm, I have some wonderful new listings for you to consider:
Hello! I’m Taurus. Why would you want to live in the city when you could live on a beautiful place like this?
Just look around, nothing but good food growing out of the ground, beautiful girls everywhere I look and the Blue Ridge Mountains! Gorgeous! Right across the road from me is a vineyard that makes a beautiful Cab Franc! How can you beat that? These nice humans that take care of all my wants and needs live in a nice warm farmhouse and seem pretty happy too. You could have all this if you wanted and who wouldn’t?
I’ve got almost 82 acres to roam around on. There’s a nice little pond where I can look at this great blue heron and watch him catch fish. Sometimes people come out here and walk around tip toeing around the..you know. ha ha. They think I’m scary..ha ha All I have to do is blow through my nose and they run. ha ha. They probably wouldn’t do that well here. This place needs someone who loves the land like I do. They need to look at the dirt here. It’s good dirt. I can tell from the way it tastes and the way the grass tastes. yummm. They should know that you could grow anything here in this dirt. Grapes would be good. Hay would be good. I like horses. They’re pretty. Not very strong like me but they’re pretty. They’d like it here too. They could run all over the place and if the people wanted to ride them they could ride out and about forever. I wish I could open gates like they can. I’d go right over to that big barn and eat all that hay. Oh well, I thought you might like to hear about this place from a different perspective. It’s all about the land you know. That works for me. Happy New Year, everyone.
What does it look like, your place in the country? Is it a tiny cabin in the mountains beside a trout stream? Is it a grand manor with manicured grounds? Maybe it’s an old farmhouse with plenty of room for your horses, cows and chickens. For those of us who imagine a country home as the culmination of and reward for a long and busy career, visions of quiet sunrises and sunsets, the sounds of a rooster in the morning and tree frogs in the evening float through our consciousness more and more often as the reality grows nearer and nearer.
Most of my clients are living in the city or suburbs and either approaching retirement or contemplating a career that allows them to work virtually anywhere they wish. Hustle and bustle, traffic jams and twelve hour days have gotten them where they are and now allows them a choice. Some choose the country and the opportunity to surround themselves with the things of the earth rather than the things of man.
I never tire of hearing the dreams as they spill out. “She’s always wanted her own horse” “He’s always wanted a John Deere tractor”. Fortunately, these are attainable dreams. Whether it be a dream of starting a vineyard, running a B&B, raising horses or growing organic food for a farm to table business, there are country properties, large and small, grand or modest that are ripe for the picking this fall in the beautiful Virginia countryside surrounding Charlottesville and the University of Virginia.
Here’s a wonderful new offering in the spectacular South River Valley of Greene County just north of Charlottesville. With 81 acres of prime farmland, a fully renovated 1900’s farmhouse and magnificent views in every direction, Octonia Highlands Farm has unlimited potential. It is located adjacent to an award winning vineyard , is all fenced for horse and cattle and has stocked pond.
I’m pretty sure my chicken’s free range eggs and my tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, peas and beans would be considered organic. The great success of the weeds in my garden, and the healthy population of Japanese beetles in my apples trees and roses are proof that I don’t spray.
That wouldn’t be enough for the USDA certification though. There are mountains of do’s and don’ts spelled out in the Guidance on Organic Agriculture that take a pretty dedicated farmer to adhere to for certification. The organic guidelines were established in 1990 with the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 and get tweaked a few times a year as different substances and practices are approved or disapproved. Organic farming is more a labor of love than a practical approach to making a profit from agriculture. It encourages recycling, humane treatment of animals, and natural growth of plants and animals free from antibiotics and hormonal and genetic modification. The basic tenets for Organic Farming are all good:
Organic farms and processors:
Preserve natural resources and biodiversity
Support animal health and welfare
Provide access to the outdoors so that animals can exercise their natural behaviors
Only use approved materials
Do not use genetically modified ingredients
Receive annual onsite inspections
Separate organic food from non-organic food
When you balk at the higher prices for organic food at the grocery store, go ahead and bite the bullet. You’re not paying extra because it tastes better (though it does), you are paying extra because it’s much harder to grow and takes a farmer willing to wade through paperwork, keep a daily log of farming activities, and be satisfied with a lower yield of a better product.
If you are thinking of producing an organic product, thank you. You’ll need to show that your land has gone at least three years without any non-permissible additions and will have to have soil tests done before your first certification. It’s become a way of life for over 30,000 farmers in the US and continues to grow as consumers demand a more natural, kind, and organic approach to producing our food.