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Posted January 21, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Shenandoah supervisors concerned about farm legislation

By Sally Voth

The Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will take up a resolution regarding a proposed state farm bill.

A resolution opposing House Bill 1430 is on the board's Tuesday night agenda.

Introduced by Del. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Woodbridge, the bill amends the Right to Farm Act. It expands the definition of "agricultural operation" to include the sale of "art, literature, artifacts, furniture, food, beverages, and other items that are incidental to the agricultural operation, and constitute less than a majority amount of production or sales, or less than a majority of annual revenues from such sales..."

The bill states that any ordinance restricting anyone's state or national constitutional rights in agricultural or silvicultural zones would be "null and void."

It also includes remedies for violations. "Aggrieved persons" would be able to collect from counties the amount of fines and penalties sought against them, plus attorney fees. And, any county employee whose enforcement efforts violate the bill would be liable to the aggrieved party, and wouldn't be protected by sovereign immunity.

Lieutenant governor candidate Lingamfelter's bill is in response to Fauquier County farmer Martha Boneta's claims that the county fined her last year for selling handmade soap and sheep yarn and other items from her Paris farm without first getting a permit.

This led to pitchfork-carrying supporters showing up at government offices and to a multi-million-dollar lawsuit filed against the county.

Shenandoah County Zoning Administrator Joyce Fadeley addressed some concerns regarding Lingamfelter's legislation with Community Development Director Brandon Davis in a Jan. 14 memo.

Those concerns include making county staff personally liable in their enforcement of the county's zoning code. The memo states the county already has shown its willingness to keep farms viable by allowing farm events and tourist events, as well as the sale of farm products directly from the farm.

The Board of Supervisors' proposed resolution states the bill wouldn't allow Shenandoah County to have local zoning control in farm areas, and would "usurp existing agricultural and rural zoning ordinances developed in cooperation with diverse Shenandoah County stakeholders (including the farm community)" as part of the comprehensive plan.

The resolution states the county has long supported farmers, citing various policies and noting two of its board members are farmers.

One of those working farmers is District 5 Supervisor Dennis Morris.

"We just want to make sure that we cover the bases before we go too far," he said in a Monday afternoon interview. "[The resolution] may work just fine, and we may need to tweak the wording just a little bit to make everybody feel warm and fuzzy.

"We're all concerned about the right to farm, but we don't want to have a burden on anybody either. We have had some input from the general public as well. They're quite concerned about the right to farm."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or svoth@nvdaily.com

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