Voluntary Agricultural District
The purpose of the Voluntary Agricultural District is to encourage the preservation and protection of farmland from non-farm development. This is in recognition of the importance of agriculture to the economic and social well-being of Gaston County.
On July 22, 2004, Gaston County adopted the Voluntary Agricultural District Ordinance (VAD) and Enhanced Voluntary Agricultural District Ordinance (EVAD) to encourage the preservation of farmland.
The ordinance is administered by the Gaston Soil and Water Conservation District. The District reviews and approves applications for qualifying farmland as well as establishing the agricultural district.
Responsibilities of the Gaston Soil & Water Conservation District
- Review and make recommendations concerning the establishment and modification of the VAD.
- Review and make recommendations concerning any ordinance or amendment adopted or proposed for adoption.
- Hold public hearings on public projects likely to have an impact on agricultural operations, particularly if such projects involve condemnation of all or part of any qualifying farm.
- Advise the governing board of county projects, programs, or issues affecting the agricultural economy or way of life within the county.
- Perform other related tasks or duties assigned by the governing board of the county or city.
- Farm participating in the farm present-use-value taxation program or is otherwise determined by the county to meet all the qualifications of this program.
- Farm managed in accordance with the USDA - Natural Resources Conservation Service defined erosion control practices that are addressed to highly erodible land.
- The farm is the subject of a conservation agreement, between the county and the owner of such land that prohibits non-farm use or development of such land for a period of at least 10 years, except for the creation of not more than three lots that meet applicable county zoning and subdivision regulations. By written notice to the county, the landowner may revoke this conservation agreement. Such revocation shall result in the loss of qualifying farm status.
- Members of the program will be given signs to post, identifying their farm as a member of the VAD, indicating to any potential neighbors and passersby that your land is committed to the preservation of the agriculture way of life.
- Notice on the property signaling VAD membership and a notice in the county's land record system making those within a ½ mile of a VAD farm aware of the potential for noise, odor, dust, or slow moving vehicles associated with farming.
- Landowners within the VAD who are not connected to water or sewer systems operated by the county can have water and sewer assessments waived.
- Public hearing held by the Gaston Soil and Water Conservation District if the land in the VAD is considered for a public project that may condemn land.
- District members may be eligible for farmland preservation funds as local, state, or federal funds become available (EVAD - Eligible to receive a higher percentage of cost share funds under the Agriculture Cost Share Program).
- The Gaston Soil and Water Conservation District act as an advisor to the governing board of the county on projects, program, or issues affecting the agricultural economy or way of life within the county or city.
The success of the program will foster the growth, development, and sustainability of family farms as well as increase public awareness of agriculture in Gaston County.
When farms are kept in agriculture it maintains the quality of life that each citizen of Gaston County enjoys every day. Fields and woodlands are both visual pleasure and contribute to clean air and water. Rural working landscapes are an integral part of our heritage that must be preserved for future generations. If we do not save our agricultural areas we will destroy the rustic landscape that attracts and retains people and industry to Gaston County.
Maintaining the agriculture industry in Gaston County allows consumers to purchase and consume products from local agricultural producers.