Under the provisions of Title 58.1-3230 of the Code of Virginia, a county, city, or town may adopt an ordinance that provides for use-value assessment under four categories: real estate devoted to agricultural use, horticultural use, forest use and open space use. Land used in agricultural and forestal production in an agricultural district, a forestal district, or an agricultural/forestal district is eligible for use value assessment in the absence of a local ordinance. The State Land Use Advisory Council (SLEAC) was created in 1973 to estimate the use value of eligible land for each locality participating in a use-value taxation program.
Once a local land use ordinance is adopted for a land use classification, any parcel that meets the state criteria for that category must be granted use value taxation. The County does not have the authority to impose additional eligibility requirements based on zoning restrictions or on the owner's future intentions for the use of the land.
The enabling legislation further states that before use-value assessment is granted, the local assessing officer must determine that the land meets the uniform standards for agricultural and horticultural use as defined by the Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, for forest use as defined by the State Forester, or for open-space use by the Department of Conservation and Recreation.
Albemarle County adopted all four categories of land use in 1975. Each category of land use must meet prescribed standards and minimum acreage requirements:
- Agriculture Use: Land used for agricultural use must consist of a minimum of five acres and must meet prescribed standards for a bona fide production for sale of crops and/or livestock or be in an approved soil conservation program.
- Horticulture Use: Land used for horticulture use must consist of a minimum of five acres and must meet prescribed standards for bona fide production for sale of fruits, vegetables, ornamental plants and/or ornamental products.
- Forest Use: Land used for forestal use must be a minimum of twenty acres and must include standing timber and trees devoted to tree growth in such quantity and so spaced and maintained as to constitute a forest area.
- Open Space: Land in open space must be at least five acres or such greater minimum acreage, set by local ordinance, and be used to provide or preserve the land for park or recreational purposes, conservation of land or other natural resources, floodways, historic or scenic purposes or to assist in the shaping of the character, direction, or timing of community development, or for the public interest and consistent with the local land use plan. In 1990, the Board set the minimum acreage for open space at 20 acres.
A property owner must submit an application for taxation on the basis of use assessment at least sixty days prior to the tax year for which the reduced taxation is sought. Anyone receiving use value taxation must submit a reapplication whenever a change in acreage or a change in land use occurs. Albemarle County charges a fee of $15 per parcel plus 15 cents for each acre over one hundred acres for initial applications and reapplications.
- In order to qualify a property owner must certify on the application that the property meets the standards of classification prescribed by the Commissioner of Agriculture, the Director of Conservation and Recreation, or the State Forester.
Land use guidelines provide that the following items may be requested in determining eligibility for land use:
- The assigned USDA/ASCS farm number.
- Federal tax forms (1040F) Farm Expenses and Income, (4835) Farm Rental Income and Expenses, or (1040E) Cash rent for Agricultural land.
- A conservation Farm Management and/or Forest Management plan prepared by a professional or a letter of intent stating that the land will be forested.
- Evidence that gross sales averaged more than $1,000 annually over the previous three years.
QUALIFICATIONS: AGRICULTURAL & HORTICULTURAL USE
- Requires a minimum of five contiguous unimproved acres. On larger tracts, one acre may be excluded for a house site.
- The property must have a five-year previous history of continuous farming or horticultural activity before qualifying on the sixth year. If land is left vacant, idle, or neglected for one year or more, the farm history must begin again for five continuous years.
- Cropland needs to be qualified on the basis of selling crops or needs to be qualified by adequate livestock.
- To qualify for agricultural or horticultural use, the applicant shall certify that the real estate is being used in a planned program of management, production, and sale of field crops, livestock, livestock products, poultry, poultry products, dairy, dairy products, aquacultural products, or horticultural products.
- If qualifying under livestock classifications, the minimum stocking requirements are: one cow, one horse, five sheep, five swine, one hundred chickens, and/or sixty-six turkeys per every five acres for twelve months.
- Horses can qualify the land only if they are being used for a breeding or boarding business. Horses maintained exclusively for recreational purposes do not qualify the land.
- Horticultural crops must be produced for commercial use to qualify for land use taxation.
- Gross sales must average more than $1000 annually over the previous three years.
QUALIFICATIONS: FORESTAL USE
- Requires a minimum of 20 or more contiguous unimproved acres exclusively devoted to forestal use with no livestock access. Forestal acreage with livestock access must be qualified under the agricultural use category. Forestal participants are required to have a forest management plan prepared by a forestry professional or a letter of intent stating that the land will be forested.
QUALIFICATIONS: OPEN SPACE USE
- Requires a minimum of 20 acres which are used to provide or preserve the land for park or recreational purposes, conservation of land or other natural resources, floodways, historic or scenic purposes or to assist in the shaping of the character, direction, or timing of community development, or for the public interest and consistent with the local land use plan. This category does not refer to open, unused land. To qualify under open space use, real estate must be subject to a recorded perpetual conservation, historic or open-space easement held by any public body, or part of an agricultural and/or forestal district.
* For more detailed information, please consult the Manual of the State Land Evaluation Advisory Council, published by the State Land Evaluation Advisory Council, Commonwealth of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia (available upon request from the Albemarle County Real Estate Office).
For more information about the Land Use Value Taxation program, please call the Real Estate Office at (434)296-5856.
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