Ag District ordinance changes approved

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 8, 2005

JACKSON – Following a required public hearing, Northampton County Commissioners voted to approve six changes to the Voluntary Agricultural District Ordinance here Monday.

According to Heather Lifsey, of the Northampton County office of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, the changes will help the Northampton County Agricultural Advisory Board operate in a more efficient manner.

&uot;Most of these changes are administrative,&uot; Lifsey said.

Since the implementation of the ordinance, Lifsey said the Ag Advisory Board found it more efficient to work through the Cooperative Extension Service as opposed to the county’s Planning Department because the office was responsible for drafting the ordinance and already had direct contact with landowners in the area.

&uot;The mission of the Extension Office is education, so educating landowners and other citizens about this ordinance is a natural fit for our staff,&uot; she said.

Areas directly impacted by the changes include the application procedure and approval process, mapping documentation and subdivision ordinance and zoning ordinance review.

Under the newly approved changes, a landowner may apply to participate in the program by making application to the Advisory Board or the Cooperative Extension Service, which will then review each application for completeness as opposed to the former method of review executed by the county Chair or Planning Board.

Subsequently, a checklist would be attached and reviewed by the Northampton County Soil and Water Conservation District, which would then forward the application to the Northampton County Tax Department for review before returning to the Extension Service.

The application would then be sent to the Advisory Board for approval or disapproval and the applicant notified of the results.

Applicants who have been approved by the board are then required to execute the Conservation Agreement with the Northampton County Register of Deeds.

The Advisory Board would then forward the approved applications to the Northampton County Land Records Office for inclusion on maps.

&uot;The changes will eliminate some unnecessary steps and make things flow a lot more smoothly,&uot; Lifsey said.

Once established, the Voluntary Ag Districts will be marked on official maps maintained by the Advisory Board as opposed to the Planning Department.

Additionally, the changes state that &uot;developers of subdivisions or planned unit developments shall enter on the face of the preliminary and final plat a certification attesting to their understanding that the subdivision is located within one-half aerial mile radius of the proposed development.&uot; Previously, developers only had to designate the existence of Voluntary Ag Districts within one-half aerial mile radius of the proposed development on the final plat or development plans.

Lifsey also pointed out that the existing Voluntary Ag District ordinance designates Northampton County as the responsible party in submitting annual reports to the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services when, in fact, the responsibility falls under the Ag Advisory Board.

The measures was passed unanimously.