The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority will sell about 16 acres of land that was once going to be a reservoir in Albemarle County, and will raise the rent on properties it is keeping but currently leases.
Between 1984 and 1987, 38 parcels near Free Union were acquired through an agreement with landowners or taken through eminent domain with the intent to build Buck Mountain Reservoir, but the reservoir was never built and is not part of the authority’s 50-year water supply plan.
On Tuesday, the RWSA board voted to offer for sale a 2.2 acre parcel, which includes a house known as the Elliot house, for sale to the public, and offer about 14 acres for sale to an adjacent neighbor.
Andrea Bowles, water resources manager with the authority, said RWSA staff will move forward with the legal, financial and procurement processes to sell the properties, which is “going to be a lot of work.”
The property where the reservoir was to be built totals about 1,313 acres. It was later determined that the James spinymussel, a federally listed endangered species, was present in the watershed. Stream mitigation for the Ragged Mountain Dam was done along Buck Mountain Creek in 2014.
In 2019, the board asked the authority to create a long-range plan for the land that was purchased for Buck Mountain Reservoir. Land Planning & Design Associates completed the Buck Mountain Reservoir Master Plan in 2020, which recommended that RWSA keep the property. Rivanna staff and the board recommended then the authority create a property management plan.
The master plan noted that a future reservoir is “not completely beyond the realm of possibility,” but that “overcoming the environmental constraints and bearing the costs necessary to secure regulatory permits would be very difficult.”
Bowles said the 2.2 acre parcel with the house was estimated by LPDA to be worth about $325,000.
“We feel like this option would provide the best opportunity for preservation,” she said. “With it not being Rivanna’s mission to do that, hopefully putting it out for public procurement, the right person would come along that would want to restore that.”
Neighboring property owner Matthew Lucas wants to purchase the 14 acre property that the board supported selling, which he said is part of one of the properties that was taken through eminent domain.
“Specifically, I’m looking to clean up what I counted 13 different zigs and zags into one clean line,” he said, of the property line.
In addition, the board voted to offer a two year lease for four properties totaling about 106 wooded acres to the public for “passive enjoyment activities.” Three of those four properties do not have any road frontage, so Bowles said they would try to lease it as a group.
The board also supported renewing two-year property leases at new rates with existing lessees. Then any lease which is not renewed will be offered to the public or to an adjacent neighbor if access to the property is an impediment.
Currently, 15 parcels totaling 484.4 acres are leased by nine leaseholders, which currently generates $1,900 a year. The pasture acres are $10 per acre annually, the forested acres lease for $3 per acre annually.
The new leases at market rates recommended by LPDA would raise the overall revenue to $8,500. The pasture acres will now be $19 per acre annually, the forested acres will lease for $17 per acre annually and a deed restricted area, which currently does not have lease rate, will lease for $13 per acre annually. RWSA is also adding an administrative fee per two year lease term of $100.
Issues around a pond and a bridge on property RWSA owns in the area are still being worked out, Bowles said.