In 1971, the Virginia General Assembly enacted a law permitting localities to adopt a program of special assessments for agriculture, horticultural, forest, and open space lands (Section 58.1-3299 through 58.1-3244 of the Code of Virginia). In 1978, the Franklin County Board of Supervisors chose to adopt this ordinance based on State Law to conserve acreage that may otherwise be developed.
The purpose of the program is to:
- Conserve natural resources
- Encourage the proper preservation and use of such real estate to assure a readily available source of agricultural, horticultural, and forest products and of open spaces
- Preserve scenic natural beauty
- Prevent erosion and protect adequate and safe water supplies
- Promote proper land use planning and orderly development of real estate.
When your land qualifies for land use taxation, the parcel receives a lower assessment than the fair market assessment. The difference in tax dollars is not a total abatement, but rather a deferment. Taxpayers owning real estate that meets the qualifications may enter the program under one or more of the following categories: Agricultural Use, Horticultural Use, Forest Use or Open Space Use.
To qualify for agricultural or horticultural use, the land must be devoted to the bona fide production for sale of crops, livestock, and/or horticultural products and generate a gross income of at least $1,000 per year averaged over a three year period.
Land Use Assessment
Virginia State Code requires a minimum of five acres to qualify for agricultural or horticultural land use assessment. One acre is excluded for a house site (if a dwelling exists) or for a proposed house site. The remaining five acres or more may qualify for land use taxation.
The property must have a five year history of continuous farming or horticultural activity before qualifying on the sixth year. If land is left vacant for one year or more, the farm history must begin again for five continuous years.
Livestock & Pasture Land
Pasture Land is qualified on the basis of having the required number of animals per every five acres for a full twelve month period or the equivalent (i.e. one mature cow per every five acres for 12 months, 3 for 4 months, 4 for 3 months, 2 for 6 months, etc.). The entire farm must be qualified with adequate livestock:
- Five goats
- Five sheep
- Five swine
- One hundred chickens and/or sixty-six turkeys per every five acres for twelve months
- One mature cow
Horses can qualify the land only if they are being used for a breeding or boarding business. Horses maintained exclusively for recreational purposes do not qualify the land.
Crop Land is qualified on the basis of selling crops. Horticultural crops must be produced for commercial use to qualify for land use taxation. Examples of Horticultural crops:
The forest use category requires a minimum of twenty acres of land exclusively devoted to forest use. No stripping or clear cutting is permitted unless working under the guidance of the Department of Forestry. Forestal participants are required to have a forestal commitment agreement. This can be obtained from the Franklin County Land Use Office or you may submit a plan from an independent forester.
Less than twenty acres of forest will qualify if the same parcel has enough agricultural/horticultural (minimum of five acres) to qualify.
This category is for specific types of parks, historical land, and recreational areas only. This category does not refer to open, unused land. Landowners who qualify under this category must enter into an Open Space Agreement with the Franklin County Board of Supervisors and the agreement is to be recorded with the Clerk of Circuit Court. The minimum acreage for this category is five acres.
Minimum Acreage Requirements
The minimum acreage requirements for special classifications of real estate shall be determined by adding together the total area of contiguous (adjoining) real estate parcels deeded under the same ownership. Recorded subdivision lots can not be combined to meet minimum acreage requirements.