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Land use discussion set

Members of the board of supervisors and planning commission in Buckingham County are set to discuss land use taxation — an issue that brought controversy when it was first considered in 2007.

Ivan “Chip” Davis

The matter arose weeks ago when Ivan “Chip” Davis, president of the Buckingham Farm Bureau, approached the planning commission regarding their learning more about the concept, which allows a locality to assess real estate based on the use value instead of fair market value.

“They were approached by Mr. Davis, representing Buckingham Farm Bureau at one of their meetings,” Zoning and Planning Administrator Rebecca Cobb told supervisors during their June meeting. “He asked if they would be interested in the Farm Bureau or the Extension or having a third party to come in and give information regarding land use taxation, and the planning commission just decided they wanted to hear direction from you all before they sit down and started gathering information on this as to whether or not you were even interested in pursuing this information. …”

In the early 1970s, the Virginia General Assembly adopted legislation permitting localities to adopt a program of special assessments for agricultural, horticultural, forest and open space lands.

“Land use is tax relief, I can tell you that,” said District One Supervisor R.C. “Bobby” Jones during the June 12 meeting. “If we were in land use now, I think we’d be broke.”

District Three Supervisor Don Matthews said only a handful of counties in Virginia were not enrolled in the program.

“I’m sure there’s some pros and cons,” Matthews said. “Maybe the research can provide those pros and cons.”

“We represent 306 producer farmers in Buckingham County, and this is been something that’s been one of our objectives for many, many years — long before I came on the board or anything else,” Davis said during an interview following the meeting. “Land use — it’s only a handful of counties in the state of Virginia that do not have land use,” Davis said.

“It came up a number of years ago, and it did not pass on a split decision, and we felt that now that the economy is better and times have improved, its time to bring it back into the public light.”

He said Farm Bureau felt it was time to re-educate both the board, commission and themselves “and bring in the experts that could tell us more about land use and land use assessment and how it could benefit farmers and our county.”

Davis said Farm Bureau was seeking to bring in a variety of resources and experts on the subject.

“A lot of this is a decision the county’s going to need to make on what direction it wants to go for the future … Do we want to keep our rural status?” he said.

“A lot of the philosophy on this is what does the person own that’s putting the burden on the taxpayer. A farmer who has a house and a barn, four children and whatever, they’re going to need fire, rescue, trash, school, education … They need to pay their fair burden on that part. And that parcel of property is going to be taxed at a different rate than a pasture somewhere.”

He said timberland, for example, does not put a financial burden on the county. “It’s based on what the land is used for,” he said of land use taxation.