How do I establish or join an Agricultural and Forestal District?
Each district must contain a core of at least 200 acres in one or more contiguous parcels. An eligible parcel may be added to a district if its nearest boundary lies within one mile of the core’s boundary; if it adjoins such a parcel; or if the Board of Supervisors finds, in consultation with the Agricultural and Forestal Advisory Committee and the Planning Commission, that the parcel contains agriculturally and forestally significant land. No parcel less than five acres may be added to a district. Parcels five to 25 acres may be added to a district provided they are under a perpetual conservation, open space easement held for public benefit or part of a contiguous group of parcels under the same ownership and in excess of 25 acres. Agricultural and Forestal Districts are renewed every 8 years. During the renewal process acreage, ownership, and use of the parcels are reviewed prior to the Board of Supervisors’ action on the district.
Will placing my property in an Agricultural/Forestal District keep development out of my neighborhood?
Land within an Agricultural and Forestal District is prohibited from being developed to a more intensive use for the duration of the District. Land adjacent to the District is not prohibited from development; however, if the development requires approval from the Board of Supervisors, they must consider any adverse impacts that it may have on the continued agricultural or forestal production of the District.
Does the Agricultural and Forestal District program restrict development?
Yes. Once a parcel is in a district, no lot less than 50 acres may be subdivided from the parcel, except for family transfers and boundary adjustments. Dwellings and certain agricultural and forestal uses are allowed by-right in these districts. Other uses may be sought with approval of a Special Permit or Special Exception.
Does the Agricultural and Forestal District program provide tax benefits?
Yes. Property in an agricultural and forestal district, which otherwise meets the criteria for a Special Land Use Assessment, automatically qualifies for the Land Use Assessment program. The Commissioner of the Revenue administers this program. Under the Land Use program, property owners pay less in real estate taxes to keep their land rural. The four classifications eligible for a land use tax break include agricultural, forestal, horticultural and open space land, provided applicable requirements are met. Land in an agricultural and forestal district may be exempt from special assessments, levies or taxes except on lots of one-half acre or less around a dwelling or non-farm structure.