If the Breedens had ACE...
Despite Supervisor Sally Thomas's defense of the tax subsidy [December 15: "Subsidy? Critics decry Breeden tax break"], the fact is neither she or anyone on the Board or County government can provide any data showing a positive return on investment for the approximately $113 million paid out to the wealthiest land owners over the past 20 years.
In fact, if you look at the data available, the program appears to be a failure. The Piedmont Environmental Council reports over 61,000 acres of rural land has been lost to development, with a majority of the lots under 10 acres.
County Executive Robert Tucker stated, "It is implicit in the concept of land use taxation that the tax burden is shifted to other taxpayers." The County's own data shows the tax rate could be reduced by 13 percent if land use was discontinued.
Thomas states, "It's a very fair tax." If so, then why are taxpayers subsidizing the developers of the upcoming North Pointe development on Rt. 29? Is it fair that the County, by subsidizing developers, is manipulating the supply of housing and increasing the cost of homes?
The County's Acquisition of Conservation Easements (ACE) program buys development rights and has been saving an average of 1000 acres of land per year from development. Land use, in 20 years, has not stopped one development. If used to replace the land use subsidy, ACE would separate those who want to preserve their land from those who are collecting taxpayer dollars until they're ready to sell.
The Breeden property is a prime example of such abuse. Had the ACE program been in place when the Breedens– who, by their own admission, bought the land for development– bought, they might have put their land in it, saving taxpayers several hundred thousand dollars.
ACE is clearly the better program.