The City of Virginia Beach enacted the Agricultural Lands Preservation Ordinance and the Virginia Beach Agricultural Reserve Program on May 9, 1995. The program was designed and promoted by a coalition of farm, conservation, business and civic interests. There was a common concern for resource and growth management as well as the preservation of agri-business and a balanced tax base.
The City of Virginia Beach Agricultural Advisory Commission determines the eligibility of properties offered to the program, helps set purchase priorities and advises the City Council about easement acquisitions. The commission is composed of five members appointed by City Council.
Property Owner Advantages
- Tax-Exempt Interest: Semi-annual interest paid on the purchase price is exempt from federal, state and local income taxes.
- Deferral of Taxes on Capital Gains: Pursuant to the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, property owners who enter into installment purchase agreements for the sale of development rights may, in certain circumstances, defer recognition of capital gain until they actually receive the principal amount of such purchases.
- Transferability: Property owners may not transfer their installment purchase agreements for a period of one year from closing. Thereafter, the installment purchase agreement is a negotiable instrument, and property owners may securitize and sell their interest in the installment purchase agreements.
- Better Estate Planning: Installment purchase agreements can be transferred after one year. Consequently, installment purchase agreements offer flexibility in estate planning. Additionally, separating the development rights from the land and making the agreement transferrable allows the property owner's heirs to sell their interest in the agreement (rather than in the land) in order to pay estate taxes.
Preservation easements may be purchased only when parcels meet all of the following criteria:
- The parcel shall be no less than 10 acres in area or be included in a batch application in which the combined area of contiguous parcels is no less than 10 acres.
- The parcel shall be wholly situated within a Residential Zoning district, an AG-1 or AG-2 Agricultural District or a P-1 Preservation District.
- The parcel shall be capable of being subdivided or developed for non-agricultural uses without the approval of the City Council.
- The parcel shall be located in that portion of the City lying below the Green Line as delineated in the Comprehensive Plan.
- The parcel shall not be under the ownership or control of the United States of America or the Commonwealth of Virginia, or an agency or instrumentality thereof.
- The parcel shall not contain any land required to be reserved or set aside for open space, recreation or similar purposes pursuant to the provisions of a conditional use permit, conditional zoning agreement, subdivision variance, other action by the City Council or any ordinance or regulation.
- No uses of structures, other than those permitted by preservation easements, shall be located upon the parcel.
- No portion of the parcel shall contain any of the following soil types:
- Back Bay Mucky Peat
- Doravan Mucky Peat
- Nawney Silt Loam
- Pamlico Mucky Peat, Ponded
Currently, there are 10,518 acres enrolled in the program, capturing 909 development rights.