After a series of ad hoc committee meetings studying land use taxation policies and months of study by Halifax County Board of Supervisors including citizen input, a land use taxation ordinance for “bona fide” agriculture and horticulture unanimously passed muster during the board’s meeting Tuesday night.

An ad hoc committee formed by supervisors to study the issue had a choice of four land use classifications to qualify for land use taxation, including agriculture, horticulture, forestry and open space, and ultimately members recommended to supervisors that only agriculture and horticulture be included.

Agricultural lands, in order to qualify for land use assessment, must be five acres minimum and be a bona fide agricultural or horticultural operation.

Under terms of the program, owners of horticultural or agricultural real estate, which qualifies for the program under criteria established by the State of Virginia, must have used the land for either horticultural or agricultural purposes for each of the five most recent years.

Landowners will apply to the commissioner of revenue for the classification, assessment and taxation of the property on the basis of its use at least 60 days preceding the effective date of the assessment for each year.

Supervisors reserve the right to adopt and from time to time amend guidelines for implementation of the ordinance.

Scott Crowder, president of the Halifax County Farm Bureau and member of the ad hoc committee charged with making a recommendation to supervisors, said Tuesday time is running out to implement the program.

The program needs to be in place six months before the new tax year, in this case June 30.

Crowder spoke in favor of the program, telling supervisors agriculture currently is in its biggest downturn since the early 1970s.

“There’s just a lot of product on the market with no place to go,” said Crowder. “Farmers pay to buy stuff at retail, sell it at wholesale and pay for shipping both ways.

“I farm because I love it. Gentlemen, we’re in the 11th hour, so I ask you to consider please passing this tonight and get it done. The bona fide farmers of Halifax County need this.”

Jeffrey Francisco, ED-2 supervisor, and J. T. Davis, ED-1 supervisor, both served on the ad hoc committee and supported the change to the new land use taxation program from the agricultural forestal district program in place for many years.

“The board charged us to come up with a new plan, and that’s what we did,” said Francisco. “I think we came up with a good plan.”

Davis noted Halifax County simply couldn’t afford including all four classifications in the ordinance.

Appomattox and Prince Edward counties currently include two classifications in their land use ordinance, according to Davis.

“We had a number of hoops to jump through, and I think we came out with the best product we could,” he added.

Social services

In other action on Tuesday, supervisors approved a carryover of approximately $325,000 in funding from the current fiscal year for the Halifax County Department of Social Services.

Supervisors earmarked the monies for capital improvement expenses.

Social services director Kathy Andrews estimated her office would receive $91,270 in state funding after passage of Medicaid expansion, with no county monies included.

Andrews told supervisors her department needs to expand. Currently, they are approved for 61 staff but have 58, and they are in need of from 62-64 staff members total.

“In order to meet mandatory state and federal time frames, it’s critical we hire additional staff, but there’s no space available,” said Andrews.

Scenic river

Supervisors unanimously approved submission of a letter to the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) supporting scenic river designation for an 11-mile section of the Staunton River.

Tom Stutts contacted the county administrator’s office to ask supervisors to request that DCR evaluate a section of the Staunton River for scenic river status.

The section of the Staunton River from the Highway 360 bridge near Clover to the Staunton River State Park will complete the last stretch for the Staunton to be a designated river in Halifax and Charlotte counties.

Scenic river designation would encourage protection and preservation of the river and also would encourage closer review of projects by state and local agencies.

It does not impose land use controls, affect rights of riparian landowners or allow public use of private property, according to information provided by Stutts.

Following the DCR study, the next step in approving scenic river designation would be introduction of a resolution supporting the request to the Virginia General Assembly.

VDOT report

Two of three roads in Halifax County closed due to storm damage are scheduled to re-open in the next month, according to Halifax Residency Superintendent Kenneth Martin.

Repairs to Bull Creek Road (Route 638) are expected to be completed Friday, and repairs to Hardings Mill Road (Route 619) are expected to be complete by late July.

Repairs to Oak Level Road (Route 683), the road with the most damage including a washed out bridge, will not be completed until next year, according to Martin.

Raina Rosado, VDOT road design team leader, and Rick Youngblood, VDOT Lynchburg District planning manager, asked supervisors for their support for turn lane improvements at the intersection of U.S. 501 and Mountain Road in Halifax.

Rosado told supervisors the project would have minimal impact to the Halifax County War Memorial and landscaping at the memorial.

The turn lane improvement project could be done at the same time as the courthouse renovation project, according to Youngblood, with construction occurring at the same time as that at the courthouse, and with the area of construction being disturbed only once.

Youngblood added VDOT needed support of supervisors for the project to move forward, with a decision due by September.

Appointments

Supervisors returned from closed session Tuesday and made several appointments:

• On a motion by ED-7 Supervisor Garland Ricketts and a second by ED-8 Supervisor W. Bryant Claiborne, supervisors recommended Douglas Powell for re-appointment to the Board of Equalization;

• On a motion by ED-6 Supervisor Stanley Brandon and a second by Francisco, supervisors appointed Leon Johnson and Corlis Nichols to the Halifax County Library Board;

• On a motion by Brandon and a second by Claiborne, supervisors appointed Darrell Malone to the Tri-County Community Action Agency;

• On a motion by Ricketts and a second by Brandon, supervisors appointed Joe Trickey Jr. to the Southside Community Services Board.

Doug Ford reports for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at dford@gazettevirginian.com.

Doug Ford covers news and sports for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at dford@gazettevirginian.com.