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In 1977, the Virginia General Assembly passed the Agricultural and Forestal Districts Act. The intent of the Act is to: "...encourage the development and.

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Presentation on theme: "In 1977, the Virginia General Assembly passed the Agricultural and Forestal Districts Act. The intent of the Act is to: "...encourage the development and."— Presentation transcript:

1 In 1977, the Virginia General Assembly passed the Agricultural and Forestal Districts Act. The intent of the Act is to: "...encourage the development and improvement of the Commonwealth's agricultural and forestal lands for the production of food and other agricultural and forestal products...and to conserve and protect agricultural and forestal lands as valued natural and ecological resources..."

2  This Virginia Act grants localities the authority to establish Agricultural/Forestal (A/F) Districts. The Halifax County Board of Supervisors authorized the creation of A/F Districts by Ordinance 2009-3 adopted June 1, 2009. District benefits begin in Tax Year 2010.  Halifax County A/F Districts are regulated as a Zoning Overlay District. This process is consistent with Virginia Law while allowing the County an established management system to monitor land uses within the designated A/F Districts.  A proposed district will be assessed for its consistency in meeting the Goals and Objectives established within the Halifax County Comprehensive Plan, and for consistency in meeting ordinance regulations.

3  A/F Districts are rural conservation zones reserved for the production of agricultural products, timber, and the maintenance of open space land. The Ordinance recognizes the significance that agriculture, forest and open space lands play in protecting the environment and for contributions to state and the local economy.  Districts are voluntary. They are initiated by a landowner or group of landowners as a mutual undertaking with the local government.  By establishing a District, property owners agree not to convert their farm, forestland and other open space lands to more intense commercial, industrial or residential uses during an agreed term that may range from 4 to 10 years.  In return, the County and Commonwealth agree not to take actions or make infrastructure investments that will place increased pressure on landowners to convert land to more intense land uses during the term of the District.

4  An A/F district provides land owners with some added real property relief hopefully reducing pressures to sell or develop.  A/F districts provide eligible land owners added protection from such changes that may occur as for periods ranging from 4 to 10 years. These may be renewed after their initial term.  Districts provide a higher level of certainty that farms and forests and other open space lands will be maintained. Districts restrict the powers of local, state, and, to some extent, the federal government to make decisions detrimental to agricultural and rural land uses within the district.

5  Local governments in Virginia have recognized that undeveloped lands require fewer government services than similar lands developed as residential subdivisions. The reduced requirements for services allow a lowered land-use assessment for lands included in the A/F Districts.   The Halifax County Commissioner of the Revenue has determined that property included in an A/F District will be assessed at a rate not higher than $1,000/acre. The assessment will not increase during the approved term of the enrolled land (4 to 10 years).  Districts offer some additional protection from eminent domain. Acquisition of land or easements for power lines, roadways and other infrastructure within a district is subject to additional review by the regulatory agencies and governing agencies to determine whether or not the proposed taking will adversely affect the district.

6  A/F Districts reduce expenditures of public funds for non- farm related purposes such as education, solid waste, water, sewer and public safety.   A/F uses will be taken into account in local planning decisions, such as rezoning and conditional use permits. Future land use and planning decisions or other ordinances must take into consideration the present land uses both in and adjacent to these districts.   A/F Districts present a strong presence of like-minded individuals dedicated to preserve farming, forestry and open land. This is the heritage that will be left for others to enjoy.

7  Districts protect productive farm, forest, and other open space lands which contribute significantly to a communities rural appeal and character.  Districts help protect surface and ground water supplies, reduce erosion and they serve as natural habitat for wildlife.   Districts help promote efficient community development patterns. They facilitate the efficient provision of local government services by encouraging new development in and around existing communities with available infrastructure (schools, water, sewer, streets, etc.).  A/F Districts encourage development to occur closer to developed areas away from remote rural areas. The reduction of development sprawl allows more cost-effective and efficient public service.

8  These farms, forests and open spaces are protected for extended periods of time. This allows more stable development patterns by reducing opportunities for unplanned growth in rural areas.  A/F districts discourage investors seeking to acquire and hold these lands for speculative development purposes.

9  Landowners agree not to subdivide their land to a more intensive, non-agricultural or forestal use during the term of the district. Applying landowners may request a term between 4 and 10 years. A district must have a minimum core of 200 acres, in contiguous parcels. Non-contiguous properties may be incorporated into the District provided that their boundary is within one mile of the 200-acre core or is adjacent to land within one mile of the core. Once the 200-acre core is established, there is no minimum parcel size and no minimum number of landowners for the District. There is also no maximum size for a District.

10  A/F District Application Forms May be Obtained From:  Mr. Robert Love, Zoning Administrator  Halifax County  134 S. Main Street  Halifax, Virginia 24558  434-476-3300  Or  Ms. Linda Fay Wallace, Agriculture Development Director  Halifax County  1001 Farm Way Lane  Halifax, Virginia 24558  434-476-3066  Once forms are completed, they are submitted to the Zoning Administrator. Once submitted the process or review and public hearing begins. 

11  Acreage of each parcel to be included and tax parcel number.  Name, address, and witnessed signature of each landowner seeking to join the District  A proposed term is requested by the landowner (4-10 years).  Location and total acreage identified by applicant requesting the creation of a district or addition to an existing district.  Type of district (Agricultural, Forestal or combined A/F).  Suggested name of District (If more than one property owner is involved in seeking designation of a district the consensus on a name is recommended).

12  The applicant wishing to enroll as an A/F District must provide proof that they are, and have been actively engaged for the previous 5-years in a confirmed agricultural, forestal or agricultural- forestal enterprise.  Documents that may be required from an applicant include recent tax returns, farm and forest management plans, contracts, leases or similar supporting documents.

13  United States Geological Survey (USGS) map (7.5 minute series) showing District boundaries (This map is available and may be downloaded from the County GIS Webpage  A County Real Property Map showing the boundaries of parcels to be added to a District (This map is available and may be downloaded from the County GIS Webpage  A Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) map of Halifax County (also known as a County Road Map) on which the applicant identifies the proposed location of land and the proposed District (This map is available at the Zoning Administrator’s Office or at the VDOT Residency Office).  An application fee of $500.00 is required for the creation of a district. Interested land owners are encouraged to file together for a District designation. This fee is used to offset the legal and public hearing notices. This expense may be shared among those wishing to join together to create a district. The full amount will be assessed to a single landowner seeking to create a new district. Future additions to a district will be assessed an application fee based on the acreage to be considered for enrollment into a A/F District

14  Once a completed application is received by the Zoning Administrator it undergoes these prescribed reviews:   Step 1 - Advisory Committee Review - The first review of an application is by an appointed advisory commission appointed by the Board of Supervisors.  Step 2 - Planning Commission Public Hearing - Review and recommendation - The second review involves a public hearing and review by the Planning Commission (PC). The PC will make an advisory recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.  Step 3 - Board of Supervisors Public Hearing - The third and determining review is made by the Board of Supervisors. The Board of Supervisors shall approve, modify or reject the application within 180 days of the date of its public hearing.

15  This Committee consists of ten individuals appointed by the County Board of Supervisors.  The A/F Ordinance provides the Advisory Committee shall be comprised of ten (10) persons including :  four landowners actively engaged in farming or forestry within the locality,  four other landowners from within the locality,  the Commissioner of the Revenue, and  a member of the Board of Supervisors.

16  A landowner may leave some of his property out of the district provided:  The portion left out is a separate tax parcel number and is a legally separate parcel of record.  An owner may seek to have a portion of a larger tract divided from the parent tract in compliance with the County Subdivision Ordinance.  The Zoning Administrator will work with a property owner that seeks to subdivide a tract of land from its parent tract.

17  Land can be added or withdrawn at any time during the review process.  The application fee for land withdrawn after being legally advertised for inclusion in a district will not be refunded.  However, a refund of the application fee will be returned if the district has not been legally advertised.  Once the review process is completed and the district is formally in place, additional lands may be added to the district, by following the same guidelines prescribed for creation of a new district.

18  Land may be withdrawn according to the following conditions:  Heirs may withdraw land up to two years from the death of the landowner.  Landowners may submit a written request to the Board to withdraw from district. The Board may grant the request for "good and reasonable" cause such as "economic hardship".   A landowner may withdraw his land any time during the District Review Process. This also applies at the time the district expires (4-10 years).

19  Yes, the landholder may sell the land or any portion of it at any time.  However, the A/F district designation and established regulations run with the land.  A land sale does not remove the land from an established district or term.

20  Land in an A/F district may be subdivided for family members in accordance with current zoning and subdivision regulations.  However, a subdivision for more intensive non- agricultural or non-forestal use during the term of the district is prohibited.

21  After the term of the district expires, the Board of Supervisors and those participating landowners will review the district.  At that point a determination will be made whether or not to continue, modify or terminate the district.  At the end of the term a land owner may request that land be removed from the district. 

22  What Happens if the County Elects to Eliminate the A/F Ordinance?  Should a County Governing Body elect to end this program, the terms of those lands legally enrolled will continue through the term as established.  What happens if I have land enrolled in a perpetual conservation easement? Can I still apply for incorporation into a District?  The presence of an easement does not effect the eligibility. An applicant will still need to follow the procedures established for creation of an A/F District.

23  Contact:  Mr. Robert Love, Zoning Administrator  Halifax County  134 S. Main Street  Halifax, Virginia 24558  434-476-3300  Or  Ms. Linda Fay Wallace, Agriculture Development Director  Halifax County  1001 Farm Way Lane  Halifax, Virginia 24558  434-476-3066

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