STAFF PERSON:                                                                                Rebecca Ragsdale

AF ADVISORY COMMITTEE:                                                        September 13, 2004

PLANNING COMMISSION:                                                            September 21, 2004

BOARD OF SUPERVISORS:                                                            October 6, 2004




Purpose:  The Agricultural and Forestal Districts program is an important voluntary protection measure utilized in the County. It is enabled by state law and adopted by the Board of Supervisors in Chapter 3 of the County Code.  Through the program, rural land is safeguarded and the County’s policy goal of protecting “Albemarle’s agricultural and forests as a resource base for its agricultural and forestry industries and for related benefits they contribute towards the County’s rural character, scenic quality, natural environment, and fiscal health” is implemented. The purpose of an Agricultural and Forestal District is further expanded in the County Code, adding that agricultural and forestal lands should be protected as valuable natural and ecological resources which provide essential open space for clean air sheds, watershed protection, wildlife habitat, as well as for aesthetic purposes. 


Effects of a District:  


1.         The District provides a community benefit by conserving and protecting farmlands and forest; environmental resources such as watersheds, air quality, open space, and wildlife habitat; and scenic and historic resources.


2.         The State Code stipulates that the landowner receive certain tax benefits*, and restrictions on public utilities and government action (such as land acquisition and local nuisance laws) to protect the agricultural/ forestal use of the land.  In exchange, the landowner agrees not to develop the property to a "more intensive use" during the specified number of years the district is in effect.

*Since Albemarle County currently permits all four categories of use value assessment, a district designation may not provide any additional real estate tax deductions.  Land in a district is protected from special utility assessments or taxes.


3.         The State Code stipulates that, "Local ordinances, comprehensive plans, land use planning decisions, administrative decisions and procedures affecting parcels of land adjacent to any district shall take into account the existence of such a district and the purposes of this chapter."  The district may have no effect on adjacent development by-right, but could restrict proposed rezonings or uses by special use permit which are determined to be in conflict with the adjacent agricultural/ forestal uses.  Districts must now be shown on the official Comprehensive Plan map each time it is updated.


In general, a district may have a stabilizing effect on land use.  The property owners in the district are making a statement that they do not intend to develop their property in the near future, and that they would like the area to remain in agricultural and forestal uses.  Adjacent property owners may be encouraged to continue agricultural uses if they do not anticipate development of adjacent lands. Currently, there are 24 agricultural/forestal districts in the County containing approximately 66,267 acres.


Renewal Procedure: In conducting a review, the Board of Supervisors shall ask for the recommendations of the local Advisory Committee and the Planning Commission in order to determine whether to terminate, modify, or continue the district.


The Board may stipulate conditions to continue the district and may establish a time period before the next review of the district, which may be different from the conditions or period established when the district was created.  Any such different conditions or period must be described in a notice to landowners in the district, and published in a newspaper at least two weeks prior to adoption of the ordinance continuing the district.


Unless the district is modified or terminated by the Board of Supervisors, the district shall continue as originally constituted, with the same conditions and time period before the next review as were established when the district was created.


When each district is reviewed, land within the district may be withdrawn at the owner’s discretion by filing a written notice with the Board of Supervisors at any time before the Board acts to continue, modify, or terminate the district.


Keswick Agricultural and Forestal District


The Keswick Agricultural and Forestal (AF) District was created on September 3, 1986, and originally included 5, 223 acres. There have been several additions since its creation and the table below summarizes the history of the District:









District Created











District Reviewed






















Landowners may withdraw their parcels from Districts by right during a review. Two requests have been made and are indicated below:




Location:  The District is located in the north eastern portion of the County in the vicinity of Keswick, with portions of the district bordering and including the Southwest Mountains and Route 22 (Louisa Road).


Acreage: The District includes 6,584 acres in 55 parcels. With the requested withdrawals, it would be reduced to 6,435 acres and 53 parcels.


Albemarle County Code:

The County Code currently contains this description of the District:


Sec. 3-219 Keswick Agricultural and Forestal District.

The district known as the "Keswick Agricultural and Forestal District" consists of the following described properties: Tax map 63, parcels 24, 39, 39A, 39B, 40, 42A, 43; tax map 64, parcels 5, 7, 7A, 8A, 9, 10 10A, 10B, 10C, 10D, 11 12, 13, 13A, 14; tax map 65, parcel 13; tax map 79, parcels 46, 46A; tax map 80, parcels 1, 2, 2A, 3A, 3A1, 3G, 3H, 3I, 4, 61D, 88, 114A, 115, 164, 169, 169A, 174, 176, 182, 182A, 183, 183A, 190, 192, 194; tax map 81, parcels 1, 8A, 15A6, 15B, 63. This district, created on September 3, 1986 for not more than ten years and last reviewed on October 12, 1994, shall next be reviewed prior to October 12, 2004.

(10-12-94; 4-12-95; 8-13-97; Code 1988, § 2.1-4(e); Ord. 98-A(1), 8-5-98)



This description has been checked against staff’s records and should be corrected to reflect Tax Map 80, Parcels 169C, 169C1, and 176A as being Keswick AF District Parcels. TMP 80-169C1 was a 44.3 acre division from TMP 80-169C.


Time Period: The district is currently on a 10-year review cycle. This is consistent with County policy of establishing a 10-year review schedule (the maximum) for all districts and staff does not recommend any changes.


Agricultural and Forestal District Significance: According to Albemarle County real estate records, 3,375 acres of the district are used for forestry and 2,639 acres are used for agricultural uses. About 4,466 of the 6,584 total acres in the district are under easement


Local Development Patterns: Immediately surrounding the district are large wooded mountainous parcels of the Southwest Mountains and estate parcels.


Comprehensive Plan: The Keswick District is located within Rural Area 2 of the Comprehensive Plan and all parcels are zoned RA (Rural Areas). There are no development areas proximate to this district. Agricultural and Forestal Districts compliment rural area policy as indicated in the Agricultural and Forestry Resources section of the Comprehensive Plan (pg. 105):


            Relation to Other Comprehensive Plan Policies

The protection of agricultural and forestry resources complements the Rural Area policy and the goal of resource protection in general in the Rural Area, but agricultural and forestry activities may potentially conflict to some extent with the biodiversity goal. Any potential conflicts should be considered in making land use decisions.


The Rural Area policy establishes that agricultural and forestry uses are the desired land uses in the Rural Area, rather than residential uses. Residential development in the Rural Area often conflicts with agricultural or forestry uses and has an adverse impact on the continuance of agriculture or forestry in an area. For this reason, the Growth Management goal assigns highest priority to the protection of agricultural and forestry resources in the Rural Area. In the long term, agriculture and forestry preserve open space, while development does not.


The Growth Management goal also affirms that purpose of the Rural Area is resource protection in general, for many types of resources. Maintenance of agricultural and forestry resources also provides an opportunity to conserve and efficiently use other resources such as: water resources (with use of proper conservation techniques); natural, scenic, and historic resources (with the maintenance of pasture and other agricultural land, and forested areas); and fiscal resources (by limiting development and lessening the need to provide public services to wide areas of the County).


Agricultural and forestry uses play a long-standing role in the economy, environment, and heritage of the County. The intelligent use of renewable resources such as farmland soils and timber are important for assuring an economic base to preserve rural lands. Active cultivation and clearing of land for fields or timber harvesting are appropriate activities in the Rural Area in general, and specifically in those areas designated for protection as farmlands and forests.


Protection of agricultural lands and forests promotes the goal of biodiversity by providing habitat for plant and animal species, but the cropping of agricultural and forestry products (which alters habitat) may conflict with that goal. It is important to recognize that both types of resources are important to the County’s environment, and that both need to be considered and provided for. The completion of a Biological Resources Inventory will provide more information about biological resources so that they can be adequately protected in the future. Further evaluation of possible conflicts should follow the completion of the Biological Resources Inventory.



Scenic Resources

Many properties in the Keswick AF District border Route 22 (Louisa Road), which is designated as a Virginia Byway. A Virginia Byway is an existing road with significant aesthetic and cultural values, leading to or lying within an area of historic, natural, or recreational significance. The program gives recognition to these roads to promote tourism and appreciation of natural and historic resources. Locally, Route 22 is designated a scenic highway and part of the Entrance Corridor Overlay Zoning District. The Keswick AF District along Route 22 helps maintain the visual integrity of the roadway, which is an objective of the Comprehensive Plan, since parcels in an AF district will not be developed to more intensive uses.  


Historic Preservation Plan

Some parcels in the Keswick AF District also lie within the boundaries of the Southwest Mountains Rural Historic District. Other properties within the vicinity of the AF District that are also listed on the State and National register include East Belmont and Grace Church.


Open Space Plan

The Open Space Plan shows this area to have important forests, major stream valleys, mountains, and critical slopes greater than 25%.  It identifies the mountains as one of four major opens space systems which are the most important to protect, as they serve several functions and provide multiple benefits. Specifically, mountains include resources such as critical slopes, scenic views, wildlife habitat, forests, unique soils, and headwaters.


Mountain Protection Plan

The Southwest Mountains are listed in the Mountain Protection Plan as important mountain resources and have elevations exceeding 700 feet. As mentioned, the Keswick AF District includes portions of the Southwest Mountains. Keeping these properties in an Agricultural and Forestal District may help protect mountain resources, which the plan seeks to preserve.


Benefits of the Keswick AF District: Conservation of this area maintains the environmental integrity of the County and aids in the protection of ground and surface water, wildlife habitat, critical slopes, mountain, scenic, and historic resources.


Staff Recommendation: Staff recommends renewal of this District, with the withdrawal of Tax Map 63, parcels 24 and 43, for a 10-year review period.



A-Keswick AF District Tax Map

B- Gentry Parcel Removal Request
C-Baker Removal Request

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