Michael Hobert Receives 2019 Clarke County Land Conservation Award
BERRYVILLE, VA (Jan. 16, 2020) J. Michael Hobert received the 2019 Wingate Mackay-Smith Clarke County Land Conservation Award during a Jan. 16 luncheon at the Millwood Country Club. Hobert served on the Clarke County Board of Supervisors for 16 years, during which time he helped create and then served as a founding member of the Clarke County Conservation Easement Authority.
The Board of Supervisors officially adopted the Authority and its easement purchase program in June 2002, and the Authority recorded its first easement in 2003.
Easements are voluntary agreements negotiated between landowners and public agencies in which the landowners agree to place specific restrictions on the use and development of their property in exchange for payment and various income and estate tax benefits.
The general purpose of Clarke County’s Conservation Easement Authority and Conservation Easement Purchase (CEP) program is to protect and preserve land with significant agricultural, natural, scenic, and historic resources as well as protect open space, plant life, wildlife, and water resources.
The Conservation Easement Authority established the Wingate Mackay-Smith Clarke County Land Conservation Award in 2014 to honor individuals, groups, and organizations for their significant contributions to preserve and protect open spaces in Clarke County. The annual award also draws attention to the need for land conservation and the role easements play in preserving the natural and historic resources in the county.
Mackay-Smith was the first recipient of the award as she was instrumental in helping the Board establish the Clarke County Conservation Easement Authority, and she helped negotiate the Authority’s first easement purchase — historic Greenway Court — the colonial-era home of Lord Thomas Fairfax.
Other Wingate Mackay-Smith Clarke County Land Conservation Award recipients are Holy Cross Abbey (2015), G. Robert Lee, Margaret Maizel, Robert Mitchell, and A.R. “Pete” Dunning (2016), Melvin Kohn (2017), and Joe and Denise Sipe (2018).
This year’s Wingate Mackay-Smith Clarke County Land Conservation Award recipient represented the Berryville District on the Board of Supervisors from January 1999 — when he was appointed to serve out an unexpired term — through 2015. Hobert served as the Board’s vice chair from 2003 through 2009 and as its chair from 2010 through 2015.
Hobert is a retired lawyer who for 36 years specialized in elder law, estate planning and administration at his Berryville-based firm, Hobert and Kerr P.C. During his years as a Supervisor, Hobert served on numerous county boards and commissions, and he represented Clarke on the Virginia Association of Counties board for seven years.
After stepping down from the Board, Hobert offered his legal expertise to Clarke residents who wished to place their land in conservation easement.
When discussing his decision not to seek reelection in 2015, The Winchester Star quoted Hobert as citing the creation of the county’s Easement Authority as among his most significant accomplishments. Hobert said he was “happy and proud” to have been a part of that.
Since its creation in 2002, the Conservation Easement Authority and other easement-holding organizations such as the Virginia Outdoors Foundation have helped Clarke landowners place a total of 26,744 acres in easement, retiring 275 dwelling unit rights (DURs). In 2019 alone, the Authority added 209 acres to the count and retired seven DURs. Now, almost a quarter of Clarke County’s 113,920 acres is protected by conservation easements.