April 17, 2014
This summer, the state will make changes to how it regulates farms and farm breweries.
That means changes are in store locally, too, in order to comply with the new rules.
On Wednesday, Albemarle County's Community Development Department hosted a roundtable discussion to review the changes and potential impacts.
"I think one of the things everybody loves about Albemarle County is its rural character, and to have that rural character, we need to have working farms," said Mandy Burbage, a senior planner for Albemarle County. "I think whether you're a farmer or someone who just appreciates having beautiful farmland around your community, it's something that speaks to you."
Participants had the chance to ask county leaders about specific changes in state legislation and also provide feedback on proposed local ordinance amendments.
Senate Bill 51, which will go into effect on July 1, limits a county's authority to regulate activities that are considered to be "usual and customary" to the operation of a farm. It also relaxes restrictions on requiring special use permits to only circumstances involving "a substantial impact on health, safety or general welfare of the public."
Supporters say it will provide more income opportunities for small farmers and prevent over-regulation of on-farm activities by local government.
Senate Bill 430 focuses on farm breweries. It limits a county's oversight of breweries, listing a number of activities that will be allowed by-right, without local regulation.
The roundtable discussion covered what the two bills mean for agricultural operations, farm wineries and farm breweries.
A few dozen people from different backgrounds and ties to the industry participated in the group talk.
The county planning commission is scheduled to meet May 13 for a work session.
Two public hearings on the proposed local changes are tentatively scheduled for June 3 and July 9.
People can also send their thoughts or comments on the topic to Burbage via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.