CONSENT AGENDA REQUEST

Sponsor:

Board of Supervisors Meeting Date:

Harry F. Atherton, Chairman, Marshall District Supervisor

March 8, 2007

 

Staff Lead:

Department:

Kimberley A. Johnson, Zoning Administrator

 

Community Development

 

Topic:

A Resolution to Adopt a Board of Supervisors’ Policy on Parcels 25 Acres or Smaller in Agricultural and Forestal Districts

 

Topic Description:

 

On June 8, 2006, the Board of Supervisors asked the Agricultural and Forestal Advisory Committee to review the existing Board of Supervisors’ policy on allowing parcels less than 25 acres in size in Agricultural and Forestal Districts and to make recommendations, if any, on changes to the policy. 

The Agricultural and Forestal District Advisory Committee met to review the Board of Supervisors’ policy.  The Committee unanimously recommended that the proposed changes reflected in the attached resolution be adopted.

 

Requested Action of the Board of Supervisors:

Consider adoption of the attached resolution.

 

 

Financial Impacts Analysis: 

There was no financial impact analysis required for this request.

 

Staff Analysis:

On June 8, 2006, the Board of Supervisors held a work session to review the Board Policy on allowing parcels less than 25 acres in size into the Agricultural and Forestal Districts.  The question raised was whether the policy, implemented in 1990, needs to be revised or refined.  The Board asked the Agricultural and Forestal Advisory Committee to review the policy and make recommendations, if any, on the policy.   

 

Current Policy

In 1990, the Board of Supervisors adopted a policy that states that no parcel less than 25 acres in size will be permitted within an agricultural and forestal district unless:

·         The subject property is under an open space easement; and/or

·         The subject property is part of a working farm and under the same ownership, or family ownership, of other lands which are currently a working farm and are in or being added to an agricultural and forestal district.

In conjunction with this policy, “Working Farm” has been defined to mean "any operation actively devoted to the bona fide production of crops, or animals, or fowl, including but not limited to the production of fruits and vegetables of all kinds;  meat, dairy, and poultry  products; nuts, tobacco, nursery and floral products; and the production and harvest of  products from silvicultural activity."  This definition of working farm leaves room for significant interpretation, and it is not always clear whether the larger parcel in these situations genuinely constitutes a “working farm.”  To qualify for land use assessment independent of the agricultural and forestal district as an agricultural use, more specific guidelines must be met to demonstrate a bona fide agricultural use.  The existing Board policy places a more stringent requirement on smaller parcels than do the broader standards for Agricultural and Forestal Districts established by the Code of Virginia.  The Code of Virginia standards include:

·         The agricultural and forestal significance of the land and adjacent land;

·         The presence of any significant agricultural or forestal lands within the district or adjacent areas that are not now in active agricultural or forestal production;

·         The nature and extent of land uses other than active farming or forestry within the district and in adjacent areas;

·         Local development patterns and needs;

·         The comprehensive plan and, if applicable, the zoning regulations;

·         The environmental benefits of retaining the lands in agricultural and forestal uses; and

·         Any other relevant matters.

The Code further states that “in judging the agricultural and forestal significance of land . . . soil, climate, topography, other natural factors, markets for agricultural and forestal products, the extent and nature of farm structures, the present status of agriculture and forestry, anticipated trends in agricultural economic conditions and such other factors as may be relevant” may be considered. 

Proposed Changes to the Policy

Staff met with the Agricultural and Forestal District Advisory Committee to review the policy.  In general, the Committee felt that the County should encourage the inclusion of parcels less than 25 acres in size in the Agricultural and Forestal District, as groups of contiguous smaller parcels under the same or family ownership provide similar District benefits as do larger parcels, contributing to the overall conservation of agricultural and forestal lands.  The Committee concluded, therefore, that the inclusion of groups of smaller parcels in the district should be evaluated on the same criteria as larger parcels rather than utilizing the existing, more stringent policy. 

However, because parcels under 5 acres provide limited residual agricultural and forestal benefit once developed as a home-site, it was recommended that all parcels less than 5 acres in size shall be excluded from the District unless legally consolidated into larger parcels. 

Based on these conclusions, the Committee recommended the following revised policy to replace the 1990 policy:

1.    No parcel less than 5 acres in size shall be added to an agricultural and forestal district. 

2.    Parcels from 5 acres to 25 acres in size may be included in the agricultural and forestal district, provided that:

·         The parcel is under a perpetual conservation or open space easement held for public benefit.

      or

·         The parcel is under the same or family ownership as other parcels which together comprise a contiguous tract of at least 25 acres.  Such groups of parcels shall be evaluated for inclusion in the District under the same criteria established for parcels 25 acres or greater in size.

The Board of Supervisors met on February 8, 2007 and asked staff to provide additional information on the number of parcels that are less than five acres.  Attachment 1 breaks down the agricultural and forestal districts by lot size and number of acres in each district. 

 

Identify any other Departments, Organizations or Individuals that would be affected by this request:

Commissioner of Revenue

ATTACHMENT:

Agricultural and Forestal District Category Totals

 

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