Frederick County Farm Bureau

Frederick County, Virginia, is a wonderful place to live, and with an additional 11,000 neighbors joining us in the past 10 years, others know this to be true also.

As our population grows, though, so must development. Balanced development.

Recently an Open Forum article in The Winchester Star questioned the use of Frederick County’s Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) Program, a program that works as intended.

Frederick County is diverse in its people, culture, natural resources, and economy. The economic factors that sustain us rely on business, industrial, and agricultural balances that have succeeded in sustaining a vibrant economy while maintaining the rural character and beauty of our farming heritage.

Since 1950, Frederick County has lost nearly 90,000 acres of farmland. Frederick County Planning and Zoning, along with the current and past members of the Board of Supervisors, have worked tirelessly to slow this loss all while managing growth and keeping the county welcoming to new neighbors.

The Transfer of Development Rights Program is one of several tools utilized across the Commonwealth to help conserve rural Virginia, specifically farmland. Through the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Office of Farmland Preservation and other agencies, and by working in conjunction with local governments, the state provides programmatic and administrative support in providing resources for the indefinite conservation of agricultural soils. These programs include but are not limited to, Purchase of Development Rights (PDR), Agricultural and Forestal Districts, conservation easements, Use Value Assessment, and the Transfer of Development Rights Program (TDR). The Code of Virginia authorizes localities to establish a Transfer of Development Rights program that would allow for the transfer of development rights from a “sending” property (property that the locality is trying to protect) to one or more “receiving” properties (properties where the locality is trying to encourage development).

Frederick County utilizes an Urban Development Area (UDA). The UDA is the area designated in Frederick County to accommodate higher density residential growth. Development within this area allows the county to provide services such as schools, transportation infrastructure, emergency services, and most importantly, public water and sewer more efficiently and for less cost to taxpayers. When the TDR program is utilized, Frederick County trades the one-time proffers normally associated within a UDA developed lot for the assurance of not being required to provide county services to that rural unit of land outside the UDA in perpetuity, most importantly schools and school transportation, and groundwater issues.

Agriculture is Virginia’s number one industry; therefore, it makes sense for local and state governments to invest in preserving farmland from an economic impact standpoint. Productive farmland produces goods, provides jobs, and generates tax revenue while requiring minimal services from localities. According to studies by American Farmland Trust, for every dollar of taxes paid, a house requires an average of $1.16 in local services, compared to farms and forestland, which only require an average of 37 cents. From a practical perspective, we cannot afford to lose more farmland when farmers must continue to feed a growing population utilizing a finite resource.

Frederick County Farm Bureau fully endorses the Transfer of Development Rights program and encourages Frederick County to continue programs that recognize the impact of development in rural areas and the benefit of farmland to our community.

If a developer buys a rural property and then trades the right to develop that property forever, for a lower cost of development in our designated UDA, the TDR worked as designed.

If a longtime landowner sells the right to ever develop a parcel of rural land, even by their heirs or future owners, for a fraction of what building lots would gain them, the TDR worked as designed.

If a farmer sells the right to develop a portion or all their land to continue farming or for any other reason and protects that open space forever, the TDR worked as designed.

And, yes, if gentle breezes stir hay on land protected forever by a TDR, the TDR worked exactly as intended.

Frederick County Farm Bureau

Board of Directors

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