Warren County likely could make changes to how much private property remains in agriculture.
The Board of Supervisors will consider adopting ordinances that set up the county’s agricultural and forestal districts — special areas designated by property owners who want to maintain the rural character of their communities.
Board Chairman Walter J. “Walt” Mabe, Vice Chairwoman Cheryl L. Cullers and Supervisors Archie A. Fox and Delores R. Oates voted Tuesday to recess the public hearing on the proposed renewals of the county’s three agricultural and forestal districts to their next meeting. Supervisor Tony F. Carter did not attend the meeting. The board recessed the hearing to the Dec. 8 meeting to give property owners in the districts more time to decide if they want to join or withdraw from a district.
No one spoke at the public hearing held on the proposed ordinances.
The Rockland, South River and Limeton Agricultural and Forestal Districts are up for renewal by the end of the year. Supervisors must decide if the county should renew, terminate or modify the size of any district.
The Rockland district covers approximately 9,800 acres; South River, 1,500 acres; and Limeton, 800 acres. Rockland and South River districts would gain acres while Limeton would remain unchanged if the supervisors adopt the proposed ordinances.
Planning Director Taryn Logan presented information to the Board of Supervisors prior to the public hearing on the matter. Logan asked supervisors to recess the hearing until the board’s next meeting to give property owners time to review the information and a chance to speak. The Planning Department continues to receive applications from property owners wishing to put their land into a district.
“We only do this once a year so I’d like to give people as much time as we can,” Logan said. “It is very important to the district members in the districts in their area.”
The county establishes each district with a separate ordinance. The county must hold public hearings on any proposed changes to the ordinances.
“I always think of it as it’s a statement for that community to say they would like their area to remain rural and as it is, and if there were any rezoning requests for that area the Board of Supervisors would have to take into account that the district exists there,” Logan said.
Oates asked Logan if the county monitors the property owners in the districts to see if they use their land for agriculture. Logan explained that most properties are in the special land-use taxation program. The special tax program gives property owners a break on the real estate taxes by reducing the value of their land. The property owner must use the land for agricultural purposes to receive the reduced assessment.
The Agricultural and Forestal District Committee held a joint public meeting with the Planning Commission on Oct. 14 to hear from property owners and residents in each district. The hearing drew a high turnout, Logan said. The committees voted to send their recommendation to the Board of Supervisors to approve the addition of the new properties to the districts and to extend all three districts for 10 years.
The Planning Department staff asked the supervisors to hold the public hearing on the proposed changes for the districts. However, Logan said the department also wants supervisors to recess the public hearing until the board’s meeting on Dec. 8 to make sure all property owners in the district have a chance to review the proposed changes and to speak to the supervisors. The department accepted applications through Nov. 9 and to have the ordinance approved and renewed on Dec. 8.
Owners of land in an agricultural or forestal district voluntarily put their property in such a designated area. When county officials review a district, landowners who wish to withdraw their property from a district may file a written notice with the Board of Supervisors to do so before members act to continue, modify or terminate the district.
Benefits of agricultural and forestal districts include: protection of the character of the community and continued rural land use; and reduced value of the land for taxation purposes if qualified.
Also at the meeting, supervisors voted to:
Approve a request from Warren County Public Schools Superintendent Christopher L Ballenger for an additional $1,970,364 in funding through the federal Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Stability Act.
Approve a request by Matthew Presley for a $50 bounty for killing a coyote on his Browntown Road property.
Approve a request from the Department of Fire and Rescue Services to buy all-band radios for stations 4, 5, 6 and 10, and for the department chief and fire marshal. The radios cost $105,606 which includes a $5,600 credit for the trade-in of the older devices. The county sometimes loses communication with emergency units, sometimes for hours, that respond to calls in Fauquier County and other jurisdictions, according to information provided to supervisors. Warren County’s radio system fails to make contact with units in Fauquier County. The radios purchased allow the units listed to maintain communication with all surrounding jurisdictions to which Warren County emergency workers respond.