Farm free Loudoun

featherbed-barn - 1Loudoun’s Todd Morrison has invited farmers and neighbors “to discuss and share news about the free exercise of traditional agriculture in Loudoun County.  In particular, it has been brought to our attention,” Todd said, “that Loudoun County has started to increase valuations and apply assessments …”

Todd said, “This seems to have been extended to requiring zoning permits with a $165 fee for chicken coops, and even fencing.”

The Loudoun County Assessors taxing farmers in Western Loudoun and not gradually, the assessments go from zero last year (2016) to tens of thousands of dollars on pole barns this year (2017), farmers never assessed for taxes before.

They are not sweeping up all farmers.  It may take 5 years to get them all.  They are not sure who all the farmers are.  But they’ve already come down on the first fifth of the farming community this year.  Many families purchase an aerial flyover view of their farm or homestead.  The tax assessor has been getting the same aerial pictures, received in the office of the Commissioner of the Revenue, Robert S. Wertz Jr.  The Commissioner’s Office is using those pictures to identify buildings on farms and assessing the farms for tax purposes.

The County Commissioner apparently can’t find all the farmers from the air.  The County Commissioner therefore asked the Loudoun County Farm Bureau, Inc., in a meeting to identify who all the farmers are that he couldn’t find.  The Farm Bureau said no way.

Todd makes it clear why farmers and citizens are concerned, “This is detrimental to the future of traditional farming and local food production in Loudoun County.”

Callie was also critical, “Honestly, we should stop being assessed at ‘market value’ and be taxed on the property at the price we paid. This shifts the tax burden to new and expensive homes rather than having people who have lived here all their lives subsidizing stuff they don’t use (new schools etc.).”

Nor was this the only assault on farmers and citizens, the County is going to charge $165 per permit per chicken coop.

Christopher said, “Did anybody pay $165 dollars to have someone tell them where they could stick their coop? I’d like to pay $165 and tell them where they can stick my coop.”

Incidentally, this is $165 per coop and the coop must remain in an identifiable location or area on the property.

Todd started a FB page, titled, “Farm Free Loudoun,” and said, “it’s not just the foxes that want a piece of your chickens.”

Joy said, “I have multiple generations of Loudoun farmers in my family and friends who are currently impacted.”

Todd wrote, “Loudoun County is the highest taxed county in the state of Virginia, and this new application of tax code threatens to remove any incentive to farm in Loudoun County.”

One farmer said, “They tell us they have the right to tax or not, but not tax selectively, it must be everyone at one time.”

“Outrageous valuations, taxed at the highest rate in the state,” Todd said, “is a recipe for ending local farms and changing the nature and appeal of Western Loudoun.”

The Farm Bureau has tried to address these issues, but, Todd charges, “they are not receiving adequate assistance or support from western Loudoun County Supervisors.”

A source close to the Farm Bureau said, “The Western County Supervisors are not coming to any meetings of the Farm Bureau.  They have sent staff.  They said they would come themselves twice, and sit down and discuss this with us.  But it hasn’t happened.”

Lee said, “I wrote to Higgins and got no response.”

Another farmer said, “I wonder if they’re playing us, and taxing us to pay for that 62% salary increase they’re so hot to get from us taxpayers.”

5 thoughts on “Farm free Loudoun

  1. Mike Fisher

    Changing our tax system from being assessed at ‘market value’ and be taxed on the property at the price we paid is a terrible idea. This is how it was in California when I lived there and it is the most unfair and abused system. You can be paying $1000 per month in property tax and the guy down the street pays $100 because he bought the house 15 years ago. I am all for reducing taxes and less government but changing to this system is a BAD idea.

  2. Rebecca

    I believe that this article is a bit outdated and inaccurate. You may want to subscribe to the district newsletters for either Supervisor Buffington or Supervisor Higgins. I got an email from my Supervisor which helped clear up some of the misinformation I had read on facebook. Supervisor Buffington said: “It has come to my attention that there has been conflicting information circulating on social media regarding two issues: Tax assessments on agricultural structures, Zoning permit fees for chicken coops/shelters… No new tax or fee has been implemented by Loudoun County.” He also says that the zoning permit fee is unreasonable and that he was already working with Higgins to change it. I received this email from my supervisor almost a month ago meaning this post is outdated as well as inaccurate. You might want to research things a little more before you take the time to write stuff unless your intent is to mislead people.

  3. Supervisor Tony Buffington (Blue Ridge District)

    Here’s a copy of the Loudoun County Farm Bureau, Inc. June 14th Facebook post on this topic which directly conflicts with the misleading assertions regarding the Board of Supervisors made within this article:

    “With all the recent coverage in the local media and on social media regarding Ag Building Taxation and the county’s zoning permit policy regarding mobile chicken coops we wanted to share Farm Bureau’s current status on the issues.

    First, there has been an overwhelming outpouring of input to our Board of Supervisors, as a result of Farm Bureau’s and other interested citizens activities on these issues. The feedback we have gotten is that the offices of both Supervisor Higgins and Supervisor Buffington are actively on the case and are listening! Thank you for your efforts, and thank them for being responsive!

    Neither of these issues were due to decisions made by the Board of Supervisors, so while they can help to look into changing the permit fee (as we would hope!), or ask the Commissioner of the Revenue for more clarity, and equal imposition and reasonable and accurate assessment of taxes on ag structures, etc, they were not responsible for the current state of affairs on these issues and have only been a positive force as we have worked with them.

    We are here to support Loudoun’s agricultural producers, and we are confident that Chair Randall, Supervisor Buffington, and Supervisor Higgins are with us on this effort! Thank you to all of them, and their staff aides for all their responses and hard work on these issues. We know its hard being on the front line of constituent service, but good work does not go unnoticed!

    Finally, if all of this talk has you curious about connecting with Farm Bureau ..now is a good time to join! Without our membership, the grassroots activities of Loudoun Farm Bureau would cease to exist! Check out www. vafb .com to join. Not only will you be supporting Loudoun and Virginia farms, but there’s a boatload of member benefits including ag product discounts, rental car and hotel discounts, and of course, access to Farm Bureau Insurance.”

    Here’s a copy of my June 20th response to the initial misleading story regarding this topic as it relates to the Board of Supervisors:

    http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Chicken-Coop-Permits—Ag-Structure-Tax-Assessments-.html?soid=1123313071570&aid=oJJOFI8DXuw

  4. Todd

    Yes, there is some outdated information reflected in this article. I attended the Loudoun County Farm Bureau meeting recently, and Supervisor Higgins attended the meeting and spent a considerable amount of timing speaking with everyone present about these issues. Supervisor Buffington was also represented by an aid. Some of my statements from Facebook, which are quoted in this Flannery article, are outdated, and as new information has been learned, I have tried to update my on postings on Facebook. It has also been made clear that there are no “NEW” laws or ordinances that have recently been put in place, rather long standing code, law, ordinance (it’s all the same to common people just trying to live their lives) are just now coming to the attention to the public. I would be happy to speak to John Flannery personally and give current views, so he doesn’t need to quote Facebook posts.

    What I have found to be the case over the recent month or so since all this started (to those who just found out…), is that indeed, Agricultural Structures are being taxed, or given higher valuations, on structures that previously had not been taxed. Also, the zoning permit of $165 for a chicken coop, no matter if you have a chicken tractor in your backyard, or industrial Tyson Poultry House is also true, and causes most people in the County to be guilty of owner “black market chickens”… It is real, and it is going on. The Supervisors have received a lot of feedback, and some of that “love” needs to be shared with the Commissioner of the Revenue who is in charge of levying these taxes… As of right now, these issues are still a concern, and still threaten the incentive to engage in traditional agriculture.

    I am somewhat surprised to find myself at the center of this article and issue. I am simply trying to find the truth of the matter, and address these concerns so families and communities in Loudoun County can freely produce their own food without having to go to a big box store. Even for those who are not farming for market, or homesteading to a certain extent, there are amazing life skills and lessons to be learned while owning chickens or livestock. Since I am the only one quoted in the article by first and last name, I might as well say that our family farm is called Dawson Gap Farm. We raise pastured based chicken, eggs, pork, and turkey for Thanksgiving, and use Non-GMO Project Verified, Chemical free feed for our animals. We also breed Nigerian Dwarf Goats, and we hold workshops and provide farm supplies to help support other families and farms in our region. We started our farming journey with a picture of a chicken crowing “Freedom,” and we think the more people owning chickens and raising their own animals is a good thing. It is an amazing experience to see your child bring in an egg from the backyard chicken tractor, or to sit down to a dinner where you raised your own food, or bought it from a neighbor and you know everything that went into that meal. We are not just farming for ourselves, but we are trying to build and support the local food movement by growing more farms. Please visit our webpage or Facebook page http://www.dawsongap.com or stop by our farm store in Hillsboro, VA.

  5. John P. Flannery

    There are two things that have remained the same since farmers and neighbors first reviewed their assessments and learned about chicken coop permits –

    1. there are unprecedented increased assessments on farmers when there had been none and, where there had been assessments, there are dramatic increases, without rational explanation, and these impositions have occurred on about 1/5th of the farmers, and the Commissioner of Revenue and his minions are looking for farmers they haven’t assessed, to assess.

    2. the County modified its zoning provision as to chicken coops and is now demanding $165 per coop – and the response of most citizens is remain mum that they have chickens in coops.

    3. I filed a story and op-ed about the matter based mainly on the postings on the FB page – FARM FREE LOUDOUN – and, when it was filed, last Sunday evening, our Supervisors had balked at appearing before the Farm Bureau, but, then one Western Loudoun did appear before the Tuesday evening meeting.

    4. The Supervisors who “represent” Western Loudoun have, in summary, told the farmers and the citizens in Western Loudoun this is the way it is. They have provided “information” that the County Commissioner on Revenue has the authority to assess farmers, by all appearances, frankly, to target farmers and land owners in Western Loudoun for assessments not made before, and to increase assessments in a dramatic and disproportionate amount that is not rational, fair or reasonable, and to make it difficult to get the information to understand how the increases have been apportioned so that land owners may, in a timely fashion, challenge the assessment before the Board of Equalization. The Commissioner of Revenue and his minions are looking to find all these structures and figure on increasing the amount by 1/5th the inventory of such structures each year for five years.

    5. The Supervisors who “represent” Western Loudoun have also, in summary, told the farmers and the citizens in Western Loudoun, but also anywhere in Loudoun, that the coop tax is here to stay but perhaps with some wiggling room about how and where a chicken coop owner may place the coop.

    6. Supervisors who talk about change but make none really aren’t serving us very well when they say – not within my wheel house to do anything.

    7. Nor should it be lost on us that the ENVISION document basically said there was an outside “market demand” for 50,000 residential units to be added to Loudoun and – guess what? – only Western Loudoun has the capacity to meet that “demand” – a demand that every citizen rebuffed in the accompanying report of citizen “views.”

    The information coming from the County by our Supervisors is incomplete and does not address the root problem – that there is a war on landowners dedicated to agriculture and live stock.

    There is of course the ballot box but that’s down the road. That said, it’s not too early to identify a Commissioner of Revenue candidate to replace Mr. Wertz.

    If our local supervisors don’t find the capacity to remedy this, same with them.

    But let us hope that reason prevails and we have a course correction that reflects what is fair and just for the people who are purportedly “represented” by these public officials.

    John P. Flannery

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