07/05/04 — Commissioners to hold hearing on farm districts

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Commissioners to hold hearing on farm districts

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on July 5, 2004 1:07 PM

The public will get to speak out Tuesday on a proposed program designed to defuse conflict between farmers and their neighbors.

The Wayne County commissioners have called a hearing for 9:15 a.m. on the revised voluntary agricultural districts program.

The county board will also take comments on a proposal to allow automobile sales as a special use on land zoned "airport."

The county has been developing its agriculture district program since last summer. If adopted, farmers and other agricultural land users could petition the county to place their land in agricultural districts. They would pay a small fee to have their land marked with road signs and included on maps in the county's deeds, planning and tax offices.

Any developer building a neighborhood within a quarter mile of the districts would be required to note their presence on plans.

The program's goal is to ensure that people cannot buy property or homes in Wayne County and then be surprised to find out about the nearby turkey houses, hog farm or timberland.

The initial districts would be at least 100 acres, either contiguous or in three or fewer tracts within a half mile of each other. Smaller farms in close proximity to these first districts could then be added.

To qualify, farmland must be identified as agricultural by the county Tax Department, must be actively farmed over the past five years, and must abide by erosion-control practices where applicable.

The designation would not affect property taxes in any way. Landowners could pull out of the district by simply writing a letter to the advisory board overseeing the program.

The commissioners will need to set the fee for joining a district. Sampson County, which has a similar program, charges $25 for a 10-year period. Wayne County officials have said they would need to charge enough to cover the cost of signs.

The commissioners will convene at 8 a.m. Tuesday for a briefing on the agenda. The meeting begins at 9 a.m. in the commissioners' meeting room, third floor, Wayne County Courthouse Annex, 224 E. Walnut St.