OFFICE OF FARMLAND PRESERVATION (OFP)
Office of Farmland Preservation (OFP)
Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) Programs
Purchase of development rights (PDR) programs are designed to compensate landowners who voluntarily place an agricultural conservation easement on their property. A conservation easement is a deed restriction designed to protect a specific conservation purpose.
The Virginia Farmland Preservation Task Force, established by the VDACS Commissioner, developed a model PDR program outline for the Commonwealth and its localities. A Model Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) Program for Virginia outlines the program elements that each local PDR program should address, and makes recommendations for maximizing the success of these local programs in Virginia.
As of 2014, 21 local governments have established a local PDR program. (Click here for an updated map of local PDR programs.) The Office of Farmland Preservation continuously collects the ordinances and related documents for these programs and will make them available online as soon as possible.
Localities interested in developing a PDR program may want to consider attending the next meeting of the local PDR managers group. The PDR managers also host an online discussion group. Click here to sign up for the PDR Managers Google Group. For more information, please contact Jenny McPherson, Agricultural Reserve Program Coordinator, City of Virginia Beach Department of Agriculture at 757.385.8637 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matching funds for local PDR programs
* Includes easement purchase price and in some cases incidentals such as surveys, title insurance, appraisals, reasonable legal fees, etc.
Upcoming PDR matching funding opportunities
Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) Programs
The Code of Virginia authorizes localities to establish programs that transfer the development rights from a “sending” property (property that the locality is trying to protect) to one or more “receiving” properties (properties where the locality is trying to encourage development). While this allowance was established in 2006, no locality established a TDR ordinance as of January 2008. Recognizing this, the 2008 General Assembly established a joint legislative subcommittee that examined the transfer of development rights, and ways to make these programs more appealing to localities. The joint committee recommendations were incorporated into House Bill 2055, which was passed by the General Assembly in the 2009 session. In late 2009, representatives of local governments, developers, realtors, conservation and agricultural organizations met to develop a model ordinance designed to spur localities’ adoption of TDR provisions in Virginia. Please click here for more information on this initiative. In April 2010, Frederick County became the first locality to adopt a local TDR ordinance under the revisions established to the enabling legislation in the 2009 General Assembly. Please see below for more information.
Agricultural and Forestal Districts
The Code of Virginia authorizes localities to adopt districts designed to protect working farm and forest land. These agricultural and forestal districts are voluntary agreements between landowners and the locality, and offer benefits to landowners that agree to keep their land in its current use for a period of 4 to 10 years. Localities are required by the Code of Virginia to provide the Commissioner of VDACS with a copy of the ordinance for new agricultural and forestal districts, and any changes that are made to these districts. Please click here for more information on agricultural and forestal districts.
Please click here to see the most recent list (as of May 5, 2014) of local districts and the acres held in these districts across Virginia.
Use Value Assessment
The Code of Virginia allows localities to assess land that meets certain eligibility requirements at its current use value and not at its fair market value when determining local property taxes. The four categories for use value assessment are agricultural, horticultural, forestry and open space. Suggested tax rates for each of these categories are provided to localities by the State Land Evaluation and Advisory Council (SLEAC), of which VDACS is a member. For more information on the use value assessment program and SLEAC, please click here.
Conservation Easement Donation
In addition to the local farmland preservation programs outlined above there also are additional options for landowners interested in donating a conservation easement on their property.
Please visit the following for more information on conservation easements and state agencies/non-profit organizations that accept easements:
Landowner Considerations in Selling Development Rights or Donating Conservation Easements, Jesse J. Richardson, Jr. and Leon Geyer
Additional Farmland Preservation Information and Technical Assistance:
Virginia: Andrew V. Sorrell, Coordinator, OFP
National: Farmland Information Center