Process of hay making during harvesting

When Property Rights Violations Become the Law

As American citizens, we enjoy a variety of rights that those in other countries may not have. Property rights are among the most important, and if you own land, it’s typically expected that you can use it as you please. However, this isn’t always the case — even in our local community. In reality, Warrenton’s land use policies can significantly affect agricultural property owners and their land rights.

This may come as a surprise. After all, the majority of people who purchase property are fairly unaffected by government actions — at least in relation to their land. Other than fluctuations in property taxes, you can do whatever you want within the confines of the law. However, things can get murky when local legislators and bureaucrats get involved. From boundary disputes to eminent domain, land use policies can make your life difficult.

Difficulties Faced by Warrenton Agricultural Property Owners

As an agricultural property owner in Warrenton, it’s important to be informed about more than just the issues affecting you. It’s also critical to understand the issues that could affect you. It’s easy to overlook land use policies when they’re not directly impacting your property. Still, the act of “looking the other way” means you may be surprised when you face similar difficulties.

Here are some of the problems faced by agricultural property owners in Warrenton due to land use policies — along with some issues that may arise in the future:

Zoning Regulations

Zoning ordinances dictate how land can and cannot be used within specific city zones. There may be restrictions on how you can use agricultural land before you purchase it, or such restrictions could be implemented after you’ve owned a property for years. When zoning regulations change to favor commercial, industrial, or residential development, it can have a significant and detrimental effect on agricultural land.

Development Restrictions

Land use policies in Warrenton, VA, could affect agricultural property owners by setting restrictions on properties. For instance, it’s possible that limits on building sizes, setbacks, and even the types of allowed structures could be imposed. This could affect an agricultural property owner’s ability to expand or diversify their operations and income.

Conservation Easements

An agricultural land owner may be incentivized to enter into a conservation easement. This can provide tax benefits and financial compensation, but it also limits the owner’s ability to use their land for certain purposes in the future. It could also make it more difficult to sell their land — as these easements are transferable.

Growth Boundaries

At the end of 2021, Fauquier County released proposed maps requesting that Warrenton’s boundaries be expanded by 1,750 acres — an immense 60% increase in land area. Such expansions happen all over America, but when they do, it’s often agricultural land that’s affected.

These expansions push into rural land, and this leads to development which could result in sprawl. When boundaries expand, development often focuses on designated areas. Agricultural landowners within these areas could face pressure to sell along with decreased land values.

Infrastructure Development

Eminent domain is a process whereby a government or proxy agency can take private property without the owner’s consent. This is a common process used during infrastructure development. Unfortunately, it’s often agricultural property owners who face the brunt of such activities.

When a city or state decides to put in a new interstate, utility installation, or other public works project, they’re unlikely to go through heavily populated areas. Doing so would be expensive and disruptive to many people. This means agricultural land is often targeted.

If you’re not careful, you could lose your land even when the government isn’t within its rights to take it.

Can Warrenton Land Use Policies Help Property Owners?

The effect of land use policies on agricultural land in Warrenton, VA, is often negative. However, this isn’t always the case. There are times when local policies can actually benefit farmland and rural areas. There’s a good chance most local property owners have not benefited from such positive policies. However, the potential that this could happen in the future is not outside the realm of possibility.

Consider the ways that agricultural property owners throughout America have benefited from local land use policies:

  • Encourage agritourism or value-added agricultural activities
  • Preserve agricultural land through zoning ordinances
  • Provide tax incentives related to agricultural zoning classifications
  • Facilitation of agricultural diversification and innovation
  • Provide access to water resources, transportation networks, and other agricultural infrastructure
  • Prioritization of conservation and environmental stewardship

If you’ve ever benefited from such policies, you know that zoning and land use issues can have positive results. However, the mere existence of such benefits does not detract from the difficulties faced by those who are harmed by such policies. In many cases, you’ll have to understand and protect your rights when new or existing land use policies begin to affect your property. Fortunately, doing so isn’t rocket science.

Protecting Your Rights When You Own Agricultural Land

From a growing agritourism industry to the bustling Warrenton Farmers Market, our community appreciates its agricultural roots. Unfortunately, things can get complicated due to land use policies. This is particularly true since most of this land is situated away from populated areas — which are the areas that local leaders try to avoid affecting. Sadly, this means rural land is often under constant threat of “progress.”

Understanding how Warrenton land use policies affect agricultural property owners is a great start to protecting your rights. However, that’s not quite enough. You also need to understand what rights you have under the law. While it would be nice if we could trust local leaders, bureaucrats, legislators, and others to be upfront about these rights — the simple fact is that they’re often more focused on achieving their own goals.

This is why you should reach out to a legal professional with experience in real estate law. At Ashwell & Ashwell, that’s precisely what we offer. Contact us at 540-991-9100 to schedule your confidential consultation.

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