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Cabarrus County Voluntary Agricultural District

What are Voluntary Agricultural Districts?

In 1985, North Carolina passed the Farmland Preservation Enabling Act authorizing counties to establish programs directed at the protection and preservation of farmland. This included the establishment of agricultural districts. Cabarrus County adopted a Voluntary Farmland Preservation Ordinance in 2005 with the purpose of promoting preservation of farmland within the county.

Voluntary Agricultural Districts (VADs) which are non biding and Enhanced Voluntary Agricultural Districts (EVADs)  which are binding, allow farmers to establish areas that are protected from development and where commercial agriculture is encouraged. They work to promote relationships between county commissioners, farmers and land use planners. Cabarrus County’s VAD/EVAD ordinance offers benefits, as authorized in the Farmland Preservation Enabling Act, to farmers for their voluntary commitment to restrict development of their land for at least ten years.

What are the benefits of being a Voluntary Agricultural District?

When people buy in rural areas, they will be made aware that a bona fide agricultural operation exists. All Agricultural Districts will be identified on county maps, which are displayed in county offices including the Planning Department and Register of Deeds. In addition to this protection, landowners within Agricultural Districts will not be required to connect to sewer and water systems owned or operated by Cabarrus County. They will also not be assessed water and sewer charges until their property is connected. Finally, as funds become available from local, state or federal sources, Agricultural Districts may be eligible for farmland preservation grants.

What are the benefits of being an Enhanced Voluntary Agricultural District?

Those who choose to become Enhanced Voluntary Agricultural Districts will enjoy additional benefits to their enrollment. Landowners may receive up to 25% of gross sales from the sale of non-farm products and still qualify as a bona fide farm and remain exempt from county zoning regulations. They will also be eligible to receive up to 90% cost share of installation of “Best Management Practices” under the Agriculture Cost Share Program. There is also encouragement for state agencies, departments and institutions that award grants to give priority to land owners participating in Enhanced Districts.

How your farm can become a Voluntary Agricultural District.

If you would like to become an Agricultural District, your farm must first be certified as Qualifying Farmland. To be certified, a farm must:

  • Contain a minimum of 20 contiguous acres of qualified forestland, 10 contiguous acres of qualified farmland or 5 contiguous acres of qualified horticultural land (as defined by G.S105-277.2

  • Be managed in accordance with the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s defined erosion practices that are addressed to highly erodible land.

  • Be the subject of a conservation agreement, as defined in G.S 121-35, between the county and the owner of such land for a period of at least ten years, except for the creation of not more than three lots that meet applicable county zoning and subdivision regulations.

  • Not be within municipal government boundary, unless that property is located within a municipal’s jurisdiction that either has authorized its own District or Enhanced District program via municipal ordinance, or that municipality has a memorandum of understanding with the exist Board which allow the Board to accept application for properties within that municipality’s boundary.

Membership

Voluntary Agricultural District
Voluntary Agricultural District members are subject to a non-binding agreement between the County and the landowner that prohibits non-farm use or development of land for a period of at least ten years. The exception is for the creation of not more than three lots that meet applicable county zoning and subdivision regulations. If you decide to remove your farm from the VAD program or if you sell your land, you can revoke the agreement by giving a written notice to the VAD board.

Enhanced Voluntary Agricultural District
Enhanced Voluntary Agricultural District Members will be subject to a binding agreement between the County and the landowner that prohibits non-farm use or development of land for a period of ten years. The exception if for the creation of not more than three lots that meet applicable county zoning and subdivision regulations.

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