Albemarle County is starting the sales process for properties owned by James C. Justice Cos.
The company, which is owned by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s family, owes $311,103.68 in unpaid taxes and fees, according to the county’s finance department.
Rocío Lamb, the county’s chief of revenue administration, said the real estate taxes are still unpaid and have been forwarded to Albemarle’s tax sales attorney to start the sale process.
“Normally, the process can take a year or more; however, given the large past due amount owed on these properties, we want to move these properties through the process as quickly as possible,” she said. “We are anticipating a November 2019 sale date, provided title searches find no complications.”
Typically, the tax sale process takes about a year, Lamb said, and in some cases it can take even longer.
The owner of a property in the tax sale process has up to the date of the sale to redeem the property, which they can do by making full payment of the taxes and attorney’s fees and costs.
The company owns 55 parcels in southeastern Albemarle and in 2017 had cleared portions of it for an unknown purpose, and the county was unable to contact the property owner. A neighbor complained after materials from ground-up stumps on the property were washing onto their property and driveway.
The company’s parcels had been under a county program that permits a lowered real estate tax rate for land in agricultural, horticultural, forest or open-space use, but they were removed after they were not revalidated.
Mark Graham, the county’s director of community development, said they continued to have trouble contacting the company.
“We were not able to, but we were able to get with representatives who confirmed to us that they were in the process of converting timberland to pasture,” he said. “They complied with the minimum of the state law requirements for doing so.”
The requirements are under the state’s erosion and sediment control law, but it also indirectly ties in with the right to farm, Graham said.
“If somebody’s participating in a legitimate agriculture activity on land that’s properly zoned for agricultural activity, they’re given fairly broad latitude in how they do so,” he said.