As the county’s zoning and subdivision update continues, county officials are considering different strategies for protecting working landscapes including agricultural and forestal districts (AFD) that have been a conservation option for landowners since 1977.
Stonyman Ag and Forestal District includes 86 parcels covering almost 2,000 acres in Page.
We need to determine what we want to preserve in order to know where to grow and understanding the tools available is key to ensuring we get it right.
~ Planning Commission Chair
Enacted by the Virginia General Assembly, AFDs are voluntary agreements between landowners and local government to decrease development pressures on farmland, timberland, and open space. Requirements for an AFD include a minimum of 200 contiguous acres—often achieved through an agreement between multiple parcels and landowners, although once established, additional smaller noncontiguous parcels may join, as long as they are within one mile of the core parcel.
Page County currently has one AFD known as the Stonyman AFD encompassing 1,952 acres located between Luray and Stanley. Landowners enrolled in the program agree to not subdivide or develop their property for a term of 7 years, which sends a powerful message to county decision makers about the desire of the community for this area of the county to remain in agriculture and open space. In return, the county recognizes the area as a protected “right to farm” region that will not be included in any near-term commercial or industrial growth plans.
The availability of AFDs to Page landowners has played a role in preserving the county’s natural resources and the ag and tourism economy that residents enjoy today and a tool that could be expanded to benefit other areas of the county.
Top photo by Chris Anderson