Conservation easements expected to be placed on Boydville estate

July 28, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The next owner of the 200-year-old Boydville estate in Martinsburg will be expected to adhere to a set of preservation and conservation easements.

Exactly what the property restrictions should entail will be the subject of an Aug. 16 special meeting of the Berkeley County Farmland Protection Board, which currently owns the 13-acre property.

The farmland board, which acquired Boydville in 2005 for $2.25 million, has since been unsuccessful in finding a new use for the property or a new owner.

The purchase, backed by $750,000 from the City of Martinsburg, was undertaken to stop a proposed residential development on the leafy 13-acre property at 601 S. Queen St.

One of the expectations of the new owner could be that the historic property be open to the public at least once a year, Farmland Board executive director Robert “Bob” White told board members meeting Thursday.

“We’ve got some serious thinking to do ... (on) how restrictive we want to be with respect to the easements,” board chairman Floyd Kursey said. Kursey noted the easements could address whether the new owner would be allowed to tear down the barn on the property due to its venerable condition.

The Farmland Board has been advised by legal counsel that it can not use property transfer tax revenue it receives for the property’s upkeep because that funding stream is to be used for placing conservation easements on farmland.

Fundraisers have been held to raise money for the property’s upkeep and grants have been awarded for maintenance projects.

A 2010 appraisal based on the placement of a conservation easement on the property pegged Boydville’s value at $1,072,000, board members said.

Board member Stephen Christian said he believes it is more important to identify buyers who have the “desire and the money” to acquire it and are willing to negotiate with the Farmland Board on the easement restrictions.

“I don’t know that I would want to pay somebody $2,000 for an appraisal that’s basically going to just provide us with a document that lowers the value of the home in the eyes of a potential buyer,” Christian said.

But Christian said he does feel it is important for the Farmland Board to reach a consensus on the important attributes of the property that should be protected through the easements.

Built by Gen. Elisha Boyd, who served in the War of 1812, the mansion was once part of a 300-acre farm. During the Civil War, the estate was spared from burning by direct order of President Abraham Lincoln.

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