County OKs Voluntary Agriculture Districts
The Voluntary Farmland Protection Program Ordinance adopted Monday by the Moore County Board of Commissioners will enable eligible land owners to form voluntary districts for protection of forestry, open land and farmland.
The ordinance goes into effect Oct. 1.
"It's all about keeping farmers on the farm," said Board Chairman David J. Cummings after closing the public hearing on the proposed ordinance. "I think it will be a great step for Moore County."
Cummings noted the presence of several groups representative of agricultural interests in the audience for the board's Monday night meeting. They included people from the Soil and Water Conservation Board of Super-visors, Cooperative Extension Service, and the Farm Bureau as well as members of the Planning Board and "some just plain farmers."
"It would help everybody in the county," said Glenn Bradley, the first of three speakers at the hearing.
Bradley, a former member of the Soil and Water Conservation Board of Supervisors, chaired the Ordinance Review Committee of the Agricultural Advisory Board that prepared the draft ordinance.
"I think it will be very beneficial to the whole county," said Albert Troutman, a longtime member of the SWC board.
Jerry Dorsett of Winston-Salem, a staff member of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Re-sources, added his support, calling the measure "an outstanding effort."
In reviewing the proposed ordinance, County Planning Director Andrea Surratt said that the Land-Use Plan adopted in 1999 names preservation and protection of the county's rural agricultural nature as one of its top goals.
Participation in agriculture districts is voluntary, and landowners may revoke their participation at any time upon written request.
One article in the ordinance specifies that developers of major subdivisions must designate existing voluntary agriculture districts on preliminary and final site development plats.
This will serve as warning to potential clients that they are buying property near or adjacent to land used for agricultural purposes.
Under the ordinance, people applying for building permits or registering a deed are required to sign this statement: "I certify that I have reviewed the most current Moore County Agricultural Districting Map found in the Register of Deeds and/or Planning Office.
"I understand that activities such as pesticide spraying, manure spreading, machine operation, livestock operations and other common farming activities may occur at any time in these areas."
Elsewhere, the ordinance explains that these requirements are designed to "help avoid conflicts between neighbors and potential nuisance claims."
Signs are to be erected along the right of way of major roads advising potential residents and property owners of farming activities in the area.
Another benefit to farmland owners is the "last resort" provision that requires the Board of Commis-sioners to condemn such land only "as a last resort" when considering condemnation proceedings.
The ordinance provides for appointment of a seven-member advisry board to review and approve applications, conduct public heartings, advise the Board of Commissioners on projects affecting agriculture, review and make recommendations on ordinance amendments.
The board will also study additional methods of protecting farmland.
The Board of Commissioners will appoint members who will, in turn, choose their own chair and vice chair.
Among the requirements for eligibility is participation in the present-use-value taxation program. The property must be real property with soils suitable for farming. Minimum sizes are five acres for horticultural uses, 10 acres for agricultural uses and 20 acres for forestry.
The ordinance has been in the making since 2004, when the Moore Soil and Water Conserv-ation District Board established an Ordinance Review Board.
In adopting the ordinance, Moore County joins 39 other North Carolina counties who have already adopted voluntary agriculture district programs covering 2,675 farms and 204,642 acres. Among those counties are Alamance, Chatham, Randolph, Guilford, Wake, Durham and Orange.
Florence Gilkeson can be reached at 947-4962 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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