Fauquier Considers Weakening Language in Rural Lands Plan

placeholder imagePhoto by Will Parson, Chesapeake Bay Program

Update (7/12/19):

Thursday, July 11, was a big win for conservation policies in Fauquier, with a potential shift toward weaker land use planning being resisted! The vote was close though and would not have been achieved without engagement from citizens like you. Thank you!

The Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to adopt Version A of the Rural Lands Plan amendments with Mary Leigh McDaniel, Holder Trumbo and Rick Gerhardt in support and Supervisor Chris Granger and Chris Butler opposed. The Board had received 52 letters in favor of Version A, one letter in support of either Version, and four letters in support of not updating the plan at all.

Version A, which ultimately passed, amounts to a doubling down of the existing policies that have been effective and a recognition that agricultural, historic, and natural resources are the foundation of tourism and quality of life in Fauquier County. All three of the supervisors voting for Version A noted the interest and very strong support for Version A expressed by their constituencies.

See more on the background below!

Original post (6/27/19):

Over the last year, Fauquier has been working on an update to its Rural Lands Plan, a section of the County’s Comprehensive Plan that outlines land use policies in the rural areas.

On Thursday, July 11 the Board of Supervisors is holding its second public hearing about the draft plan and will likely vote that night. We are encouraging them to vote to approve Version A.

The County’s policies for smart growth and promotion of agricultural activity have been very effective at preserving the rural character of the County that so many people love – its open space, natural resources, gravel roads and strong agricultural heritage.

Version A of the Rural Lands Plan update represents a doubling down of existing policies that have been effective. Version B includes a series of small edits that simply serve to weaken those policies and open the door eliminating effective programs and policies.

A few examples of these changes include:

  • Action 2.1.7: “Maintain and evaluate the land use taxation program as a key tool to encourage agricultural land and production within the County.”
  • Within Rural Tourism section: “All tourism enterprises should operate with the understanding that the primary uses of rural areas remains agriculture, historic preservation and natural resource conservation. Conflicts that occur between tourism and primary uses should be settled in favor of the primary uses.
  • Action 3.3.4: “Evaluate limiting food and/or beverages sold as part of an agritourism activity to those value-added products produced from or grown on the land or surrounding land in Fauquier County, unless they are secondary and incidental to the primary agritourism business.”
  • Action 3.5.2: “Evaluate requiring operating hours of rural businesses or tourism enterprises to be consistent with the operating hours of other similar businesses within the RA or RC Zoning Districts.”

None of these changes are major but the question is, why make them? These are policies we have had in Fauquier for decades. We have evaluated them over time and have found that they work, so why explicitly say they need further evaluation in the comprehensive plan?

Version A strikes the appropriate balance. Please ask the Supervisors not to compromise on these changes.

We need to ensure that agriculture, historic preservation, and natural resource conservation are prioritized because they are the foundation of Fauquier’s tourism industry.

Board discusses Rural Lands Plan
At the May 9, 2019 work session on the Rural Lands Plan, the Supervisors discussed the changes proposed in Version B. Here is a video clip of their discussion.

The full recording of this meeting and all Supervisor meetings can be found on Fauquier County’s website.

Attend the Public Hearing or Write the Board

We believe the Board of Supervisors should adopt Version A of the Rural Lands Plan without the proposed changes to long standing policies in Fauquier.

Residents will have the opportunity to speak at the meeting, which will be held Thursday, July 11 at 6:30 pm in the Warren Green Building, 10 Hotel Street, Warrenton.

If you would like to comment but can’t attend the meeting, please send an email to the Board at BOS@fauquiercounty.gov to share your concerns.

What’s in the Plan?

The Rural Area Plan is a critical part of the Comprehensive Plan, because over 90% of the County is planned to remain categorized as rural land. Although the majority of new growth is happening within the growth areas of the County (e.g. Warrenton, Bealeton, New Baltimore, etc.), about half of the nearly 70,000 residents of the county live in these rural areas.

All residents of Fauquier are connected to our rural lands by locally grown food, through tourism, and by driving through them on a daily basis.

The Rural Area Plan is out of date and is due for an update, with few changes having been made in nearly two decades.

A summary of the changes between the old plan the updated 2019 version are available here: https://www.fauquiercounty.gov/home/showdocument?id=25066. Many of these changes are simply putting long standing policies into the plan.

Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or concerns. Hope to see you on July 11!


Julie Bolthouse
Fauquier Field Representative
The Piedmont Environmental Council