CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Gov. Jim Justice and his family are being praised by land conservationists in Virginia for agreeing not to develop a key piece of property in central Virginia. The same property Justice owed back taxes on until last month.
A news release from the James C. Justice Companies, Inc. said Gov. Justice and his family are donating the 4,500-acre “Presidential Estates” in Albemarle County, Va. to conservation.
“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,” the governor’s son, Jay Justice, said in the release.
The Justice companies are forfeiting 450 development rights ensuring the use of the property will remain in timberland and agriculture.
According to the news release, Presidential Estates is only a few miles from downtown Charlottesville, Va. and is in the viewshed of Monticello, the historic home of Thomas Jefferson.
“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 devastating impact on the viewshed from Monticello and would negatively impact the historic setting experienced by our visitors,” Thomas Jefferson Foundation President Leslie Greene Bowman said.
The move is also being praised by the Virginia Department of Forestry.
“[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,” Va. Department of Forestry Forestland Conservation Manager Mike Santucci said. “In addition, the property contains over eighteen miles of watercourses, which contribute to the aquatic habitat and public drinking water supplies of communities downstream.”
The Justice company owed more than $311,000 in unpaid real estate taxes to Albemarle County and the county began the tax sale process of 52 parcels in March but Justice made a payment of more than $404,600 in June. The payment covers back taxes, fees and the first half of 2019 taxes on the property.