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“It has allowed us to grow our farming operation here in Prince William County, something that would be difficult to do just producing commodity crops,” said James Yankey, who owns Yankey Farms in Nokesville.

Prince William County is clearing the way for expanded agricultural and art-related businesses.

At its Feb. 16 meeting, the Board of Supervisors approved an Agritourism and Arts Overlay District to expand by-right uses on agricultural land to promote small business.

The overlay district essentially allows a slew of uses in certain agriculturally-zoned land as long as certain guidelines are met. County officials say it will integrate agriculture, tourism and art while maintaining the character of rural areas.

Agritourism overlay district

“This is a great way to preserve our rural and less dense areas in our county,” said Supervisor Yesli Vega, R-Coles. “I believe this is going to be a boon for our local economy while helping to preserve our rural area and everything that makes it unique and beautiful.”

Agritourism is the promotion of tourism-related business in connection to an agricultural use, such as a farm winery or farm brewery.

Local governments have been balancing the promotion of economic development with safety for several years with the growing industry around agritourism, particularly farm wineries and breweries. 

Under state law, local governments must allow agritourism activity "without local regulation unless there is a substantial impact on the health, safety, or welfare of the public."

The eased regulations will apply to properties zoned A-1 with a minimum of two acres in the rural area and a minimum of 20 acres in the county’s development area. 

The overlay district defines agritourism uses to include retail areas for agritourism-related products, areas for instructional teaching, outdoor display of goods for sales and certain special-event venues. 

The businesses would be restricted to operating between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Special-event venues would be allowed on lots with a minimum of 20 acres. Events would be restricted to 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays with no more than 150 people allowed.

Landowners making improvements to their properties to offer agritourism business can do so under the new regulations, while existing buildings that are modified would require zoning and site plan approval.

Art-related uses must be on a property that is primarily used as a residence, with no more than 20 people allowed on site. Uses include selling artwork created on site, instructional teaching, studios, catering, antique stores and flower shops.

“Allowing for spaces where people can start an arts-related business in their home and grow that business until they are successful enough to need a permanent space in a commercial center is a great way to incubate new business, grow the commercial tax base, and stimulate the ingenuity and creativity of our community,” Deputy County Executive Rebecca Horner said in a press release.

James Yankey, who owns Yankey Farms in Nokesville, said the overlay district allows farmers to know they aren’t violating county code and feel comfortable expanding their business.

“It has allowed us to grow our farming operation here in Prince William County, something that would be difficult to do just producing commodity crops,” Yankey said of agritourism.

Helen Taylor, president of the Prince William County Farm Bureau, said agritourism operations can help farms make their operations sustainable.

“It has been evident over the past 12 months that people want to know where their food, where their fiber and where the fuel originates,” she said. “This tool can assist with that education.”

 

Nolan Stout covers Prince William County. Reach him at nstout@insidenova.com or @TheNolanStout on Facebook and Twitter.

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(7) comments

Lumen

And as soon as these businesses want to expand they will move out of the RC.

The lies from this Board never stop.

Yes, they do want to develop the RC, need to make room for the ugly sprawl that covers the rest of the D.C area.

Constant growth is not a sustainable model.

Great idea about the solar farm, maybe they can run the power lines through your yard.

Hawkeye10

"Great idea about the solar farm, maybe they can run the power lines through your yard."

Dont think theres any room for a Solar Farm outside of the R.C.

[lol]

Hawkeye10

Its a much better idea than data centers.

Hawkeye10

I mean this is good & all, its just a shame private tax paying citizens need local government oversight and approval for this...But even so, it still promotes how much of an asset preserving the rural crescent is. Rural crescent is a Prince William gem, has nothing to do with rich or poor, black or white. Its accessible to all. And the provisions set forth in the R.C. determine air and water quality for everyone. If only some of the zoning regulations also applied to the overcrowded, overpopulated eastern portion of the county would we really stand out from the rest. But typically, the local governments vision is that of Fairfax, Arlington, and Alexandria. If they really want to develop in the R.C., I would start with a solar farm.

FixPrinceWilliam

You say that we don't need government oversight, but then you say zoning regs should be applied to the Eastern side of the county. PWC wanted sprawl for the past 30 years, and they got it! The flood gates are open. Good luck!

Hawkeye10

In this particular instance, its up to the private property owners if they are interested in agrotourism and arts. Zoning ordinances are an entirely different ball game.

Hawkeye10

Especially when the area is already designated as the R.C. This is the board trying to simultaneously "protect" the R.C. while also attempting to push back on their promises and ultimately develop it as they envision.

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