COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE

STAFF REPORT SUMMARY

 

Project Name:  AFD2009-55; AFD2009-59; AFD2009-60 Sugar Hollow AFD Additions

Staff: Eryn Brennan, Senior Planner

Planning Commission Public Hearing: November 10, 2009

Board of Supervisors Public Hearing: December 2, 2009

Proposal: Additions to the Sugar Hollow Agricultural and Forestal District

Comprehensive Plan Designation: Rural Areas

RECOMMENDATION: That the Planning Commission recommend approval of the additions to the Sugar Hollow Agricultural and Forestal District.

 

 

Petition:

NOTICE OF AN APPLICATION FOR ADDITIONS TO THE SUGAR HOLLOW AGRICULTURAL AND FORESTAL DISTRICT

 

Notice is hereby given pursuant to Virginia Code § 15.2-4307, which is part of the Agricultural and Forestal Districts Act (Chapter 43 of Title 15.2 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended (the “Act”)), that:

1.An application for an addition to the Sugar Hollow Agricultural and Forestal District (the “District”) has been filed with the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and the application has been referred to the Albemarle County Planning Commission pursuant to the Act;

2.The application for this addition to the District, together with descriptive maps, is available for public inspection in the offices of the Clerk of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and the Albemarle County Community Development Department, Albemarle County Office Building, 401 McIntire Road, Charlottesville, Virginia;

3.Any political subdivision whose territory encompasses or is part of the District may propose a modification.  Any proposed modification must be filed with the Albemarle County Planning Commission in the Albemarle County Community Development Department within 30 days after the date that this notice is first published (no later than October 16, 2009);

4.Any owner of additional qualifying land may join the application for the District within thirty days after the date this notice is first published (no later than 5:00 p.m., October 16, 2009) or, with the consent of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, at any time before the public hearing the Board of Supervisors must hold on the application;

5.Any owner who joined in the application may withdraw his land, in whole or in part, by written notice filed with the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors in either office identified in paragraph 2 at any time before the Board of Supervisors acts pursuant to Virginia Code § 15.2-4309;

6.Additional qualifying lands may be added to an already created district upon separate application pursuant to the Act at any time following the district’s creation;

7.The application for the District and proposed modifications will be submitted to the Albemarle County Agricultural and Forestal Advisory Committee on October 19, 2009;

8.Upon receipt of the report of the Advisory Committee, a public hearing will be held by the Albemarle County Planning Commission on the application for the District, and any proposed modifications, on November 10, 2009.

 

Purpose

 

The County’s Comprehensive Plan identifies Albemarle County’s Agricultural and Forestal Districts Program (the “AFD Program”) as one of several voluntary programs available to landowners that “encourage the protection of prime agricultural soils and working farms from nonagricultural development.”  The AFD Program is an important voluntary land protection measure.  By State Law and the County Code, the purposes of the AFD Program are to:

 

·         Conserve and protect agricultural and forestal lands for the production of food and other agricultural and forestal products;

 

·         Conserve and protect agricultural and forestal lands as valued natural and ecological resources which provide essential open spaces for clear air sheds, watershed protection, wildlife habitat, as well as for aesthetic purposes; and

 

·         Provide a means by which agricultural and forestal lands may be protected and enhanced as a viable segment of the State and local economies, and as important economic and environmental resources. 

 

 

 

Effects of an Agricultural and Forestal District

 

The placement of land in an Agricultural and Forestal District has the following effects:

 

1.   Prohibition of development to more intensive use.  As a condition to creation of the district, no parcel within the district may be developed to a use more intensive than that existing on the date of creation of the district, other than uses resulting in more intensive agricultural or forestal production, without the prior approval of the Board of Supervisors.  The meaning of “development to a more intensive use” is defined in County Code § 3-202. 

 

2.   Applicability of Comprehensive Plan and Zoning and Subdivision ordinances.  The Comprehensive Plan and the Zoning and Subdivision Ordinances apply within a district to the extent they do not conflict with any conditions of creation or continuation of the district, or the purposes of the AFD Program. 

 

3.   Limitation on restricting or regulating certain agricultural and forestal farm activities.  The County may not unreasonably restrict or regulate by ordinance farm structures or agricultural and forestal practices that are contrary to the purposes of the AFD Program unless the restriction or regulation is directly related to public health and safety.  However, the County may regulate the processing or retail sales of agricultural or forestal products or structures in accordance with the Comprehensive Plan and County ordinances.

 

4.   Consideration of district in taking certain actions.  The County must consider the existence of a district and the purposes of the AFD Program in actions pertaining to the Comprehensive Plan, its land use ordinances, and other land use-related decisions and procedures affecting parcels of land adjacent to a district.

 

5.   Availability of land use value assessment.  Land within a district devoted to agricultural or forestal production qualifies for land use value assessment if the requirements for such an assessment under State law are satisfied.  Placing land within a district is one of three ways in which land devoted to open space use may qualify for land use value assessment if the requirements for such an assessment under State law are satisfied.

 

6.   Review of proposals by agencies of the Commonwealth, political subdivisions and public service corporations to acquire land in district.  The Board of Supervisors must review any proposal by an agency of the Commonwealth, political subdivision of the Commonwealth, or public service corporation to acquire land in a district.  The purpose of the Board’s review is to determine: (i) the effect the action would have upon the preservation and enhancement of agriculture and forestry and agricultural and forestal resources within the district; and (ii) the necessity of the proposed action to provide service to the public in the most economical and practicable manner. 

 

7.   Parcel created by division remains in district.  A parcel created from the permitted division of land within a district continues to be enrolled in the district.

 

8.   Prohibition of certain service-related assessments and tax levies.  Land used primarily for agricultural or forestal production may not be subjected to benefit assessments or special tax levies by a special district for sewer, water or electricity or for nonfarm or nonforest drainage on the basis of frontage, acreage or value.  There are two exceptions: (a) the assessment or levy was imposed prior to the formation of the district; or (b) the assessment or levy is imposed on a lot not exceeding one-half acre surrounding any dwelling or nonfarm structure located on the land.

 

In general, a district may have a stabilizing effect on land use.  The landowners 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, forestal or open space uses if they do not anticipate development of adjacent lands.

 

Periodic Review of Agricultural and Forestal Districts

 

A district may continue indefinitely, but it must be reviewed by the County every 10 years to determine whether the district should be continued.  Before being considered by the Board of Supervisors, a district is reviewed by the County’s Agricultural and Forestal District Advisory Committee and the Planning Commission.  Both the Advisory Committee and the Planning Commission provide recommendations to the Board as to whether the district should be terminated, modified or continued.

 

Once it has received the recommendations of the Advisory Committee and the Planning Commission, the Board conducts a public hearing.  After the public hearing, the Board may terminate, modify or continue the district.  If the Board continues the district, it may impose conditions on the district different from those imposed on the district when it was created or last reviewed.  Landowners within a district receive notice of this process, including notice of any proposed different conditions. 

 

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

 

Unless the district is modified or terminated by the Board, the district continues as originally constituted, with the same conditions and time period before the next review as were established when the district was created or last reviewed.  If the Board terminates the district, the land within the terminated district is subject to and liable for roll-back taxes under Virginia Code § 58.1-3237 and the lands are no longer subject to the benefits and obligations described in the “Effects” section above.

 

THE SUGAR HOLLOW AGRICULTURAL AND FORESTAL DISTRICT

 

The Albemarle County Code currently contains this description of the District:

 

Sec. 3-226 Sugar Hollow Agricultural and Forestal District.

The district known as the "Sugar Hollow Agricultural and Forestal District" consists of the following described properties: Tax map 25, parcels 11C, 12, 13, 14, 14A, 14B, 14C, 18, 18A, 18B, 21, 21A, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28; tax map 26, parcels 5A, 9, 10, 10B, 10D, 10F, 11C, 11D, 12A, 13, 19, 40B, 40C, 41A, 52, 52D; tax map 27, parcels 8, 8E (part), 26; tax map 39, parcels 2, 2A, 3, 4, 14, 15, 25, 25A; tax map 40, parcels 1, 9, 9C, 10, 10A, 10B, 10C, 12B1, 22, 22A, 27A, 46C1, 49. This district, created on September 6, 1989 for not more than 10 years and last reviewed on October 6, 1999, shall next be reviewed prior to September 6, 2009.

(11-17-93; Code 1988, § 2.1-4(q); Ord. 98-A(1), 8-5-98; Ord. 99-3(5), 10-6-99; Ord. 02-3(1), 1-9-02; Ord.

02-3(2), 4-3-02)

 

The District is located west of Whitehall, near the northwestern border of Albemarle County (Attachment A). The district is characterized by evergreen and deciduous forest, open pasture, agricultural fields, hedgerows, as well as occasional residential and agricultural buildings.

 

The District was created in 1989, and originally included 2,504.16 acres. An additional 2,477.88 acres were added to the District between 1990 and 2002. However, during the 1999 review, one parcel and 80.83 acres were removed. The District now includes 56 parcels and 4,901.21 acres (Attachment B).

 

Agricultural and Forestal District Significance: Of the 4,901.21 acres that comprise the Sugar Hollow District, 232.49 acres are enrolled in the Agriculture category of land-use valuation, 2,481.97 are enrolled in the Forestry category, and 98.53 acres are enrolled in the Horticulture category.

 

Land Use other than Agriculture and Forestry: In addition to agricultural and forestal uses, the Sugar Hollow District includes approximately 32 dwellings.

 

Local Development Patterns: The District primarily consists of large forested parcels and large farm parcels. Several parcels in the District are under conservation easements (Attachment C).

 

Comprehensive Plan Designation and Zoning Districts: The Sugar Hollow District is entirely designated as Rural Areas in the Comprehensive Plan, and the parcels included in the District are zoned RA Rural Areas. The parcels adjoining the parcels in the District are all zoned RA Rural Areas as well (Attachment C).

 

Environmental Benefits: The District includes woodland and agricultural fields. Protecting and preserving these properties in an Agricultural and Forestal District will help protect forest and rich farm land, which the Comprehensive Plan and Rural Areas Zoning Ordinances seek to preserve.  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, and wildlife habitat. The Sugar Hollow District is located in the Doyles River, North Moorman’s River, and Beaver Creek Reservoir watersheds (Attachment C).

 

Time Period: The Sugar Hollow District is currently on a 10-year review cycle. The District is scheduled to be reviewed on December 2, 2009.

 

Proposal:

Three applications have been submitted requesting to add three parcels to the Sugar Hollow Agricultural and Forestal District, in accordance with Chapter 3, Sections 3-101, 3-201, 3-203 and 3-215 of the Albemarle County Code, which allows for additions of land to Agricultural and Forestal Districts.  The Sugar Hollow Agricultural & Forestal District was created on September 6, 1989 and was last reviewed on October 6, 1999. The District currently includes 56 parcels and 4,901.21 acres. The proposed addition of three parcels totaling 91.47 acres would increase the total number of acres in the Sugar Hollow District to 4,992.68.     

 

The parcel, Tax Map 39, Parcel 13C3, is located at the end of Sealville Road. The parcels, Tax Map 27, Parcels 24A and 25, are located at the end of Bourne Farm Road (Attachment A).

 

The parcels are zoned Rural Areas with agricultural, forestal, and fishery uses as the preferred land use and includes a residential density of .5 unit per acre.  The Comprehensive Plan identifies these parcels as Rural Areas; focusing on the preservation and protection of agricultural, forestal, open space, and natural, historic and scenic resources, including a residential density of .5 units per acre.

 

Agricultural and Forestal Districts Advisory Committee Recommendation: On October 19, 2009, the Agricultural and Forestal District Advisory Committee recommended approval of the proposed additions to the Sugar Hollow Agricultural and Forestal District.

 

Staff Recommendation:

Staff recommends that the Planning Commission recommend approval of the proposed additions to the Sugar Hollow Agricultural and Forestal District.

 

Attachments:

A.     Sugar Hollow District - Proposed Additions

B.     Sugar Hollow District - History

C.     Sugar Hollow District - Conservation Easements & Zoning

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