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BREAKING NEWS: PEC Filed a “materially and substantially altered easement” On Martha Boneta’s Farm

Editor’s Note: This is the first column by Bryant Osborn, a farmer in Culpeper County, Va, to appear in Virginia Right!. Bryant has been writing this column weekly and it is carried by a number of publications. He has generously allowed Virginia Right! to publish his column on a weekly basis. So around every Thursday, look for the column.

Bryant has a blockbuster column this week and has some Breaking News about the PEC. This is a major development in the Martha Boneta case.

Fresh & Local

by Bryant Osborn

PEC’s bait and switch conservation easement

The Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC), which is a private 503(c) non-profit land trust, has attracted a whole lot of unwanted attention lately.

Martha Boneta grows organic produce on her Liberty Farm in Paris, Virginia. Martha’s farm has conservation easements, which are agreements where a landowner receives tax breaks in

Martha Boneta

Martha Boneta

exchange for legally restricting future development of their property. One of the easements is administered by the PEC. Martha has charged that PEC has trespassed repeatedly on her farm and has attempted to drive her off the farm through unwarranted and overly invasive conservation easement inspections, and an IRS audit she says was instigated by PEC board member.

Martha Boneta and Del. Brenda Pogge (R-Williamsburg) introduced a private land trust oversight bill, HB 1488, this year in the General Assembly. HB 1488, known as The Conservation Dispute Resolution Act, provides accountability and transparency protections for landowners against private land trusts, and it racked up landslide victories in the General Assembly. Last week it sailed through the full Senate 32-6, and it is now awaiting Gov. McAuliffe’s signature.

Now there is a brand new development. As part of Martha’s contract to purchase Liberty Farm, PEC incorporated into the purchase contract a version of the conservation easement that was signed by both Martha and Chris Miller, President of PEC.

Martha never received any tax credits or benefit from the easement.

Breaking news has just uncovered that PEC did not file the easement that was signed by Martha Boneta. Instead PEC filed a materially and substantially altered easement without the knowledge or consent of Martha Boneta.

Martha is simply at a loss for words. “I don’t even know how to articulate the level of lack of ethics involved in this. Not only am I shocked and stunned by this, but I’m also shocked that an organization that is entrusted by the public would do something like this.”Martha Boneta

And that is not all. PEC claimed that General “Stonewall” Jackson and his men bivouacked on a part of Martha’s farm known as the Oak Grove on the evening of July 18, 1861 on a march from Winchester to the 1st Battle of Manassas. PEC forced Martha to fence-off the nearly twenty acre Oak Grove – at her expense – and they insisted that she not ever use it, claiming that it is hallowed ground. Martha lost the use of all that acreage, and left uncared for, the Oak Grove became overgrown.

It has been recently reported that PEC apparently made that whole story up, and that there is no actual evidence that Gen. Jackson was ever on Martha’s farm.

And then there is this. Back in November, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, which is a a state governmental agency, adopted a resolution offering to take over the management of PEC’s part of Liberty Farm’s conservation easement.

But the VOF resolution went nowhere. Michael Thompson, writing for the VaRight.com website, reported that VOF attorney Kerry Hutcherson in a December email wrote, “Our staff has spent a great deal of time researching the history of the project, compiling all documentation, and examining both the existing deed of easement, as well as the Baseline Documentation Report (BDR)… we found a number of serious flaws in both the easement and the BDR.”

What did VOF find? The list of “serious flaws” VOF found in PEC’s easement documents included two conflicting versions of the BDR. VOF dropped their offer to take over the management of Martha Boneta8PEC’s easement. Mr. Hutcherson made it perfectly clear that, “It would be imprudent [for VOF] to take on what we think may by an indefensible liability for the Commonwealth,” and he further noted that the Attorney General’s office “also has serious concerns about the current deed and BDR.”

And now it has come to light that PEC pulled a bait and switch when filing the easement itself.

In an interview after November’s VOF hearing, Del. Pogge marveled, “What I’m wondering, really, is why we are meeting at [Dept. of Conservation and Recreation] and why are we not in criminal court, or civil court, because the things that have been perpetrated on Martha Boneta really rise to a criminal level, and certainly her civil rights have been violated.” Del. Pogge’s observation was right on the mark.

There is no question that these revelations are going to generate scrutiny of all of PEC’s past land deals, but these revelations also may cause people to take a hard look at conservation easements nationwide.

Dr. Bonner Cohen, from the property rights group National Center for Policy Research, in his testimony at the November VOF hearing, said, “[PEC’s behavior] is going to make people think, ‘Do we really want a conservation easement on our land if we are going to be subjected to this level of harassment and humiliation?’ I think a lot of people are going to answer that question, ‘no.’ ”

Martha is just incredulous. “I cannot even begin to tell you how shocking this is.”

About Bryant Osborn:

About Bryant Osborn: Bryant Osborn and his wife Terry own Corvallis Farms in Culpeper County. Bryant’s Fresh & Local columns on local-market agriculture now appear regularly here at Virginia Right! He can be reached at bryant@corvallisfarms.com

About Bryant Osborn:
Bryant Osborn and his wife Terry own Corvallis Farms in Culpeper County.
Bryant’s Fresh & Local columns on local-market agriculture now appear regularly here at Virginia Right! He can be reached at bryant@corvallisfarms.com

 

About Tom White

Tom is a US Navy Veteran, owns an Insurance Agency and is currently an IT Manager for a Virginia Distributor. He has been published in American Thinker, currently writes for the Richmond Examiner as well as Virginia Right! Blog.Tom lives in Hanover County, Va and is involved in politics at every level and is a Recovering Republican who has finally had enough of the War on Conservatives in progress with the Leadership of the GOP on a National Level.

One Response to “BREAKING NEWS: PEC Filed a “materially and substantially altered easement” On Martha Boneta’s Farm”

  1. frank papcin says:

    the democratically controlled environmental group will us any means they want to get what they want–including lying and cheating–
    THAT’S WHO THEY ARE–LIARS AND CHEATERS, with no regard for anyone or the law
    just like obama

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    Tom White Says:

    Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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