BY JOHN-HENRY DOUCETTE
COURTHOUSE — The city may consider a cap on land use tax rates on agricultural land, valuation that — using an example of class III cropland — has risen from $300 per acre in 2009 to $2,120 per acre this year.
City Agriculture Director David Trimmer and City Assessor Jerald Banagan are scheduled to brief the city council about the matter on Tuesday, Aug. 9.
State Del. Barry Knight, R-81st, presented the issue to members of the city agricultural advisory commission during its quarterly meeting on Monday, July 11. Knight said a cap has the support of leadership of the Virginia Beach Farm Bureau’s board of directors.
He serves as its vice president, and he spoke in that capacity last month.
The land use value is expected to be $1,970 next year for class III agricultural land.
The cap discussed during the meeting would be either the commodities-based rate or $1,800, whichever is less. [There can be different valuations for different classes and types of land — pastureland and cropland, for example.] Virginia Beach valuations are the fourth highest in the state, according to Knight.
Rising rates are based on commodities data that included a spike in prices that no longer reflects prices farmers are getting, he said. The sum of land in question is relatively small, he added, and it doesn’t generate the need for services that a neighborhood does.
“That acre of corn or soybeans out there generates more in tax than it does in city services,” Knight said. “That crop of soybeans doesn’t have kids going to school.”
The purpose of using land use value rather than market value for assessment purposes, in part, is meant to preserve land for farming and open space. If land use changes, such as for development, there are significant penalties for the owner. The current land use valuation “is just out of whack,” said City Councilmember Barbara Henley, a farmer who represents the Princess Anne District, during the meeting.
The commission, made up of farmers, approved a letter supporting a cap. Henley said the city would review the issue.
As a farmer and owner of agricultural land, she submitted a letter to the city clerk on Tuesday, July 12, disclosing that she is a member of a group affected by the discussion while also stating that she can participate in the matter fairly.
Also during the meeting, William B. Dawson Jr. of Pungo sought support for a bounty on coyotes. Dawson recently spoke to the city council, but a city spokesperson at the time said the matter was not being explored by staff. Dawson found a seemingly more receptive audience in a room full of farmers.
Knight and farmer Don Horsley, who also serves on the city planning commission, said the local Farm Bureau could include it in its legislative agenda.
© 2016 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC