Commissioners table farmland protection plan
By David Bodenheimer
Published: Wednesday, December 15, 2010 at 4:57 p.m.
A proposed Davidson County Farmland Protection Plan was widely criticized Tuesday night by the Davidson County Board of Commissioners, who then tabled the proposal for 90 days and advised the Davidson County Voluntary Agricultural District Board to reconvene with its stakeholders to develop a more focused plan.
Commissioners voted 4-3 to table the plan despite heavy support for it at a public forum Tuesday night. Around 40 people in favor of the plan attended the meeting, with several folks addressing the board, encouraging commissioners to pass the proposal. Commissioners Fred McClure, Todd Yates, Larry Potts and Sam Watford voted to table the plan. Commissioners Billy Joe Kepley, Don Truell and Cathy Dunn voted in favor.
According to the VAD board, the farmland protection plan looks to create a forward-looking document that addresses a suite of issues facing farmers and citizens in the county while promoting agricultural growth. The plan wants long-term policies that would support and regulate county farmland areas.
The 48-page document troubled commissioners, particularly McClure, who said the plan is vague, infringes on property owners’ rights and doesn’t cater to the needs of Davidson County.
“There are some real issues in here with some of the language,” he said. “When you’re going to start talking about areas where you’re going to tell a farmer that his farmland is not suitable for development, so he can’t sell it, he’s going to be encouraged to farm it.”
Included in the plan was a request for extraterritorial jurisdiction rights that are a part of the plan’s land use control option. This would allow for a municipality to extend certain jurisdictional controls into areas that it intends to annex. McClure hammered the idea.
“ETJs are generally in place in those counties where there is not county planning and zoning,” he said. “This is a situation where the county would give up its zoning rights to a city and have the city zone it. There are all kinds of references of increasing density, and increasing density speaks to setting people up to be annexed, and we don’t have good annexation laws in this state.”
Andy Miller, director of the Davidson Soil and Water Conservation, said the VAD board will look to clarify some issues in the plan that the county viewed as controversial.
“This is not agriculture versus development,” Miller said. “It may be we have done a poor job on our end making sure they (commissioners) understand what the intentions are of the plan and how the VAD intends for the plan to operate. The VAD is sensitive to owners’ property rights.”
Since 1992, Davidson County has lost approximately 15,000 acres of farmland, however that’s not an all inclusive term. The state defines cropland as an area that produces an annual crop and does not consider land such as pasture or a vineyard as cropland.
Miller said he would like to see a protection plan that promotes farming as an industry and takes advantage of Davidson County’s rich soils.
“We have some of the best productive soils in North Carolina,” he said. “There is a difference in some of the soils as you move through the county, and one of the goals of this plan is to keep those best lands available for that use. The problem with that is that very often with that land for farmland, those are also the easiest lands to develop. They are going to work best for septic systems, the topography is better, so you’ve got two competing uses there.”
Providing one last endorsement to commissioners to table the plan was Steve Googe, Davidson County Economic Development Commission executive director.
“I was surprised by the document, as much as our board was,” Googe said. “I submit to you that the manufacturing, distribution, construction and services industries are alive and well and may have much more value than our farming industry as it relates to wages, jobs and investments. This document does not treat those industries fairly as it does to agriculture.”
numbers from 2007 provided by the VAD show that Davidson County generated
$36.3 million in revenue from agriculture that year. These figures
represented 1,074 county farming operations spanning 91,475 acres of