COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE
STAFF REPORT SUMMARY
Project Name: AFD2009-00001 Buck Mountain AF District Review
Staff: Eryn Brennan, Senior Planner
Planning Commission Public Hearing: July 21, 2009
Board of Supervisors Public Hearing: September 2, 2009
Proposal: Periodic review of the Buck Mountain AF District.
Comprehensive Plan Designation: Rural Areas
RECOMMENDATION: That the Commission recommend renewal of the District for another 10-year period.
Review of the Buck Mountain Agricultural/Forestal District: Periodic (10-year) review of the Buck Mountain Agricultural/Forestal District, as required in Section 15.2-4311 of the Code of Virginia. The district includes the properties described as Tax Map 8, Parcels 16A, 16C, 17E, 17F; and Tax Map 17, Parcels 26B, 26C1, 26C2, 26C3, 31 (part), and 32. The district includes a total of 503.89 acres. The area is designated as Rural Area in the Comprehensive Plan and the included properties are zoned RA Rural Areas.
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.
3. 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.
4. 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, forestal, and open space uses. Adjacent property owners may be encouraged to continue agricultural uses if they do not anticipate development of adjacent lands. Currently, there are 26 agricultural/forestal districts in the County containing approximately 81,100 acres.
Renewal Procedure: In conducting a renewal, the Board 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 renewal 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.
AFD 2009-00001 Buck Mountain District Review
The Albemarle County Code currently contains this description of the Buck Mountain District:
Sec. 3-209 Buck Mountain Agricultural and Forestal District.
The district known as the "Buck Mountain Agricultural and Forestal District" consists of the following described properties: Tax map 8, parcels 16A, 16C, 17E, 17F; tax map 17, parcels 26B, 26C, 31, 32. This district, created on January 4, 1989 for not more than 10 years and last reviewed on January 13, 1999, shall next be reviewed prior to January 4, 2009.
(4-12-95; Code 1988, § 2.1-4(o); Ord. 98-A(1), 8-5-98; Ord. 99-3(1), 1-13-99; Ord. 99-3(5), 10-6-99)
The Buck Mountain District is located northwest of Free Union, in the area east of Free Union Road, south of Davis Shop Road, and west of Markwood Road (see Attachment A). The entire District is located in the Buck Mountain Creek watershed, which drains to the South Fork Rivanna River and the community’s largest surface-water supply. Land cover in the District is largely forested on and around Buck Mountain, and more open northeast of Buck Mountain Creek.
The District was created in 1989, and originally included 624 acres. In 1995, 27 more acres were added, and 13.55 acres were added in 1999. However, during the 1999 review, 161 acres were removed (see Attachment A). The District now includes 11 parcels and 504 acres.
Agricultural and Forestal District Significance: Of the 504 acres that comprise the Buck Mountain District, 137.37 acres are enrolled in the Agricultural category of the land-use taxation program, while 141.69 acres are enrolled in the Forestry category. Enrollment in these tax categories is an indicator of active rural land uses.
Land Use other than Agriculture and Forestry: In addition to agricultural and forestal uses, the Buck Mountain District includes approximately five dwellings.
Local Development Patterns: The District primarily consists of large forested parcels and large farm parcels. Three parcels in the District, and many nearby, are under conservation easements (see Attachment B). The area is primarily rural in character, but does include some land in smaller residential lots zoned Planned Residential Development west of the core of the District.
Comprehensive Plan Designation and Zoning Districts: The Buck Mountain District is entirely designated as Rural Areas in the Comprehensive Plan, and the parcels included in the District are zoned RA Rural Areas.
Environmental Benefits: Conservation of this area will help maintain the environmental integrity of the County and aids in the protection of ground and surface water, agricultural soils, mountain resources, critical slopes, and wildlife habitat.
Time Period: The District was created on January 4, 1989, and was last reviewed on January 13, 1999.The Buck Mountain District is currently on a 10-year review cycle.
Landowners may withdraw their parcels from districts by right during a renewal at anytime before the Board of Supervisors takes final action to continue, modify, or terminate the district. Landowners were notified of the renewal by certified mail on June 9, 2009. As of this date, no landowners have requested withdrawal.
Agricultural/Forestal Districts Advisory Committee Recommendation: On June 22, 2009, the Committee recommended that the Buck Mountain District be continued for another 10-year period.
Staff Recommendation: That the Planning Commission recommend renewal of the Buck Mountain District for a 10-year period.
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