Home » State Agritourism Mandates Approved March 2014

State Agritourism Mandates Approved March 2014

Rockingham County and other farm communities lost their battle to retain full zoning authority over local farm retail activities and land uses when the General Assembly and Governor Terry McAuliffe approved agritourism legislation.

Rural agricultural communities will lose much oversight over commercial events and sales on local farms July 1, when the new state rules on agritourism zoning go into effect. Legislation introduced by state Sen. Richard Stuart (R-Stafford), passed both houses nearly unanimously and was signed by Governor McAuliffe in March, despite strong opposition from CAP and top farm counties, including Rockingham.

The legislation bans local oversite on farm sales, special events and related activities unless the local government can demonstrate a “substantial impact on the health, safety or general welfare of the public.” It also bans restrictions on activities that are “usual and customary at Virginia agricultural operations.”

However, the new law does not define these vague terms, leaving county government to comb through existing ordinances to determine what changes are needed to follow the new rules. CAP plans to work with Shenandoah Valley Network to identify ways the Valley’s counties can meet the mandates.

Promoters insist agritourism legislation was needed to streamline local zoning and increase farm income. But critics point out that the law is so broad, it would 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. That, in turn, could actually erode local and regional farm vitality over time through over-commercializing of working lands.

Rockingham County Board of Supervisors Responds!

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