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Background information on the Farmland Preservation Ordinance for Haywood County

Right now, Haywood County landowners have two options under the Farmland Preservation ordinance to protect their land from encroaching development:

1. Voluntary Agriculture District
2. Enhanced Voluntary Agriculture District.

The big difference between the two is that the Enhanced Voluntary Agriculture District ten year conservation agreement can not be revoked. Haywood County is the second County in the State of NC to pass the Enhanced Voluntary Agriculture District.

Voluntary Agriculture District established for Haywood County in 1994:

• Preserve and protect farmland, forestland and/or horticultural land from non-farm development

To be eligible for the VAD must meet the following criteria:
• the land must be part of the present use value taxation program or be determined eligible for present use value;
• the land must be managed in accordance with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service guidelines with respect to highly erodible land; and
• the land must be subject to a conservation agreement between the landowner and the county that prohibits non-farm use or development for a 10-year period, except for the creation of not more than three lots that meet applicable county zoning and subdivision requirements. (Under the basic VAD ordinance, this agreement may be revoked by the landowner at any time.)

In return for voluntarily agreeing to these development restrictions, the land qualifies for the following benefits:
• educational signage to publicize the land’s VAD status;
• increased protection from nuisance lawsuits;
• waiver of water and sewer assessments if the property is not connected to county water and sewer systems;
• required public hearings for proposed condemnation; and
• eligibility for farmland preservation funds.

Enhanced Voluntary Agriculture District passed for Haywood County on March 5, 2007:

Same eligibility requirements and benefits as the VAD as well as:
• the 10-year conservation agreement between the landowner and the county cannot be revoked; automatically renewed every 3 years,
• the landowner may receive up to 25% of gross sales from the sale of nonfarm products and still qualify as a bona fide farm; and
• the property is eligible to receive a higher percentage of cost-share funds under the Agricultural Cost Share Program – as high as 90% assistance.

In addition to these statutory benefits, EVAD properties may also enjoy these indirect benefits:
• an opportunity to stabilize the use of the land while considering longer-term options, such as permanent working land conservation easements;
• fewer unsolicited requests from developers to sell the property due to the 10-year irrevocable conservation agreement;
• protecting the county’s rural economy and rural heritage; and
• maintaining scenic views; the availability of fresh produce, flowers, and other local farm products; wildlife habitat; clean air and water; lower levels of traffic; and a reduced infrastructure burden on county government.

American Farmland Trust conducted a recent study that showed for every dollar in taxes received from working lands, only 34 cents in services is paid by the government. Service paid by the government for residential development showed an average of $1.15 per dollar of taxes received. It is a net gain of revenue for the tax base and thus an economic benefit for any county to preserve working lands. Especially for Haywood County since our community encompasses over 64,000 acres of farmland and produces over 17 million dollars from livestock, dairy and crops into production. Farming is our way of life here and we must provide resources for landowners to use if they want to continue their livelihood.

Contact: Haywood Soil and Water District for more information at: 828-452-2741 x3
USDA Service Center, 589 Raccoon Road, Suite 203, Waynesville, NC 28786