Fauquier’s PDR program helps working farms

Fauquier’s Purchase of Development Rights program pays landowners of agricultural operations to limit the development potential of their land through a conservation easement. Unlike a donated conservation easement, the PDR program pays farmers a flat rate of $25,000 per development right they wish to extinguish.

PDR Program Qualifications

  • Land must be used for a bona fide agricultural operation
  • Land must be in excess of 50 acres
  • Land must currently be zoned Rural Agricultural (RA) or Rural Conservation (RC)
  • Land must not currently be under conservation easement or pending consideration for conser­vation easement or otherwise restricted from development

Fauquier County formally established the program in 2002 in order to protect the County’s farmland and retain the agricultural industry’s critical mass. The program is encouraged by the Commonwealth of Virginia, which has policies to support the perma­nent conservation of farmland, including providing matching funds. While funding for the PDR Program is largely tax based, these funds have been used to leverage non-County sources. About a third ($4.7 million) has been raised in the form of grants and other contributions.

The PDR Program is funded through a spe­cial real estate tax levy currently set at $0.006 per $100 of assessed valuation, which is anticipated to generate $627,483 in 2015. Fauquier County has also received $286,983 from the 2015 Vir­ginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services farmland preservation matching grants and $90,000 from Virginia Land Conservation Foundation.

In Fauquier, the program has supported ongoing agricultural operations on 45 family farms, mostly in the southern part of the County. To date, the pro­gram has permanently protected 10,125 acres and extinguished 537 development rights. The PDR program is an investment in the future of Fauquier. It supports agritourism and the agricul­tural economy and promotes economical, efficient, and thought-out development of the County.


Benefits of the PDR Program

  • Land stays in agricultural use, which ensures that future generations can continue to farm it. Productive agricultural land is finite and an irreplaceable natural resource.
  • PDR easements follow the land into perpetuity and will transfer to a new owner if the property is sold.
  • Long-range environmental benefits, which include the preservation of wildlife habitats, clean air and water, flood control, groundwater recharge, and carbon sequestration.
  • Agricultural goods and services will continue to benefit citizens of Fauquier County and beyond. Agriculture contributes to the local economy directly through sales, job creation, and support to local businesses.
  • Pastoral landscapes and agritourism activities support the tourism economy, which attracts visitors who patronize the many other businesses of Fauquier County.
  • Discourages scattered residential development throughout the countryside where the cost of providing the most basic services, such as schools, student transportation, public safety, public water and sewer, etc., can quickly exceed the resources of the locality often requiring increases in taxes and government debt. (Read more about the Cost of Community Services on page 6.)

“The PDR program is excellent, and it’s wonderful that our county is using it to preserve open space and farm land. It is costing the taxpayers some money, but we will be repaid by not having the land developed with homes and subdivisions that are cash negative alternatives.” —Matthew Smith, Fauquier resident and VP of Sales and Marketing at Smith-Midland

This article was featured in our Fauquier County Special Edition of The Piedmont View. You can read more of the articles online or view a PDF of the publication. The publication was issued by The Piedmont Environmental Council, in partnership with the Goose Creek Association, Citizens for Fauquier County, Fauquier Preservation Society, Northern Virginia Conservation Trust, Mosby Heritage Association and the Remington Community Partnership.