STAFF PERSON: Rebecca Ragsdale
MOORMAN’S RIVER AGRICULTURAL & FORESTAL DISTRICT ADDITIONS
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 described 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. 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 does not necessarily affect by-right use of adjacent property, but could restrict proposed rezonings or uses by special use permit if they were determined to be in conflict with the adjacent agricultural/ forestal uses. Districts are 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 which is about 14 percent of the County’s land area.
Moorman’s River Agricultural and Forestal District
The Moorman’s River AF District was created on December 17, 1986, and originally included 8,035 acres. Since its creation, there were several additions and during the last review in December 2004 there were several withdrawals/additions to the district. Currently, 10,500 acres are in the district (Attachment A), located in the northwest area of the County and in the vicinity of Free Union and White Hall, with portions of the district bordering Route 601 (Garth Road/Free Union Road), Route 614 (Garth Road), Route 665, Route 671 (Millington Road), and Route 680 (Browns Gap Turnpike).
Proposed Additions to the Moorman’s River AF District:
Additions to the Moorman's River Agriculture/Forestal District-- Requests to add three parcels to the Moorman’s River Agricultural and Forestal District, in accordance with Section 3-203 of the Albemarle County Code, which allows for additions of land to Agricultural and Forestal Districts. The first property, described as Tax Map 29, Parcel 15C, contains 60 acres and is located south on Millington Road (Route 665) near its intersection with Free Union Road (Route 601). The second property, described as Tax Map 29, Parcel 85 contains 22 acres and is located 3445 Free Union Road. The third property, described as Tax Map 41, Parcel 15A, contains 37 acres and is located at 4333 Cannon Brook Way, on the east side of Browns Gap Turnpike (Rt. 680), approximately 2 miles south of White Hall. All three properties lie within the White Hall Magisterial District and are zoned RA (Rural Areas). The Comprehensive Plan designates all three properties as Rural Area.
Agricultural/Forestal Significance of Requested Additions:
TMP 29-15C-Bronfman Property (Attachment B)
This parcel was originally 70 acres in size and was withdrawn from the Moorman’s River AF District during the last review in December 2005. Since that time, the parcel was reduced by 10 acres and the property owner wishes to add the remainder 60 acres back into the district. According to County records 52 acres of the property are used for agriculture and 7 acres are used for forestry. Residential uses on the property include 1 acre. This property adjoins other parcels in the Moorman’s River AF District.
TMP 29-85-Marshall Property (Attachment C)
This property is 21.586 acres in size and includes 18 acres of agricultural uses, including land used for horses and hay, and 2 acres of land in forestry, along the Mechums River which borders the rear of property near its convergence with the South Fork Rivanna River. Residential uses on the property include a single family home, pool and pool house.
TMP 41-15C-Toad Hollow Farm (Attachment D)
This property is 36.78 acres in size and includes 8.748 acres in agriculture, including horse training, lessons, and a horse show facility, and 27 acres in forestry. One acre is devoted to a single family residence. The Board of Supervisors approved Toad Hollow Farm’s request to host horse shows on the property and the AF Advisory Committee reviewed that request at their January 10, 2005 meeting.
Comprehensive Plan: The Moorman’s River District is located within Rural Area 1 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 current 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.
Many properties in the Moorman’s River AF District border Routes 601/676/614 (Old Garth Road “21 Curves”/Garth Road/White Hall 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 654 (Barracks Road) is designated a scenic highway and part of the Entrance Corridor Overlay Zoning District. The Moorman’s River AF District along this roadway 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.
This District helps to preserve important water resources. The Moorman’s River and the Mechums River flow through this district and converge at the South Fork Rivanna River. The Moorman’s River is part of the South Fork Rivanna River watershed. It has been designated both a County Scenic Stream and a State Scenic River from the Sugar Hollow Reservoir to Mechum’s River. The North and South Forks are also designated as natural trout streams by the Department of Environmental Quality. Continued protection of the Moorman’s River is an objective of the County.
Benefits of the Moorman’s River 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, scenic, and historic resources.
Staff Recommendation: Staff recommends adding TMP 29-15C, TMP 29-85, and TMP 41-15A to the Moorman’s River Agricultural and Forestal District, which would increase the district by 117 acres and help preserve the Rural Areas.
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