Shenandoah County’s agriculture land shrinking

WOODSTOCK – Shenandoah County lost land in its agricultural and forestal districts after almost a year of outreach to property owners.

The Board of Supervisors voted 6-0 at its regular meeting to approve ordinances establishing nine agricultural and forestal districts. The board also voted 6-0 to approve ordinances terminating two districts. The districts renewed include 597 parcels across 16,792 acres.

The county lost 2,458 acres or 12.77 percent of the land in the districts as renewed. A county official earlier this year attributed the loss to changing demographics. A months-long effort to reach out to property owners in the districts helped to reduce the loss of land.

The county must tax land in an agricultural and forestal district at a lower rate than other property. District regulations also call for reduced setback requirements for agricultural buildings. Property owners usually seek to include land in such a district because they intend to use it for agricultural purposes or at least preserve the acreage.

The board renewed the districts of Coal Mine Hollow, Liberty Furnace, Columbia Furnace, Mill Creek, Wakeman’s Grove, Morning Star, Woodstock West, Lebanon Church and St. Luke. The board terminated the Glaize and Tumbling Run districts because they fell below the minimum core acreage requirement of 200 acres.

Approximately 160 parcels totaling 4,895 acres were removed from those set for renewal.

The Agricultural and Forestal District Advisory Committee reviewed the proposed renewals and additions in mid-October. The committee recommended approval for all applications for renewals and additions. The Planning Commission and supervisors held a joint public hearing on the proposed ordinances on Aug. 4. No one spoke during the hearing.

Also at the meeting, the board approved changes to two chapters of the Comprehensive Plan. Supervisors voted 5-0 with one abstention to approve revisions to the Comprehensive Plan chapter pertaining to population and demographics. Vice Chairman Richard Walker abstained from voting, stating as his reason that although he supported many of the revisions as recommended by the Planning Commission, the panel included data from several years ago in the chapter. The board voted 5-0 to approve changes to the chapter on transportation. Walker also abstained from voting on this matter.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com