SVN opposes legislation before the 2014 General Assembly to eliminate local zoning control over on-farm sales and activities, specifically two identical bills on agritourism approved by both chambers.
SB51 (Sen. Stuart) and HB268 (Del. Orrock) would prohibit local agritourism zoning unless a proposed farm use has a “substantial impact” on public health, safety and welfare. The legislation defines agritourism in terms so broad and vague as to allow nearly any commercial activity on agricultural land, with little connection to the farm’s production and without consideration for potential conflicts with neighboring landowners.
The agritourism bills are meant to enhance farm vitality by increasing farm income. But the sweeping state mandate is a solution in search of a problem in the Shenandoah Valley. It forces a one-size-fits-all approach on the Commonwealth’s top agricultural producers – Rockingham, Augusta and Shenandoah Counties – that fails to recognize the long history of close cooperation between these county officials and their farm communities in promoting the farm sector.
SVN believes the agritourism bills could be challenged on constitutional grounds for eliminating an important local government right to manage local land uses. In particular, counties would lose the ability to consider the interests of adjoining landowners (agricultural and others) without certain conflict and the threat of litigation.