By Mariette Hiu Newcomb
In the early 1980’s some local activists got together with Fairfax County planners to see what could be done to save farmland that was rapidly being converted into subdivisions, shopping malls, and office parks. They came up with the Agricultural and Forestal District ordinance that would make qualifying lands eligible for lower real estate taxes based on its agricultural use instead of its market value which was increasing due to development pressures.
In 1985, our farm became the Potomac Vegetable Farms Agricultural District which was committed to not developing or changing its use for the eight year term of the district. We have since renewed our district each time the term expired. It originally included the 30 acres on Leesburg Pike and a noncontiguous 8-acre parcel owned by the family on nearby Beulah Road, on the other side of the Moutoux Orchard which also had its own agricultural district. This 75 acre block devoted to farming became notable as land in the surrounding area filled up with large houses.
Three years ago, the Moutouxs decided to sell and move their orchard operation out to Loudoun County. We have written in these newsletters about the impact of the loss of this beautiful and productive orchard and our historic access to our Beulah Road land. We are continuing to grow vegetables and cut flowers there, but Fairfax County no longer allows it to be part of our agricultural district, now that it is more obvious that it is noncontiguous to the rest of our farm, and we are paying much higher taxes based on its market value as a house lot.
The County attorney has ruled that noncontiguous parcels cannot be part of an A&F district even though the ordinance stated at the time our district was established that noncontiguous parcels, if located within a mile of the core of the A&F district, would be allowed.
I have spoken with our Supervisor John Foust and consulted with the Fairfax County Planning Office but have been told that some legislative action might be necessary in Richmond to allow our noncontiguous parcel to be included in our A&F district. We need some help and advice to make the necessary connections to pursue this. We were wondering if any of our customers and associates might have more experience and expertise in this area than we do. Can any of you help?