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
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
The subject property is under an open space
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.
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
Local development patterns and needs;
The comprehensive plan and, if applicable, the
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.
Changes to the Policy
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.