By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Thursday, September 3, 2009

For the past nine years, Albemarle County farmer Nathan Yoder has sold produce on Thursday afternoons at a stand at the corner of Free Union Road and Garth Road.  Someone complained to County’s zoning officials about the stand, triggering an investigation. While Yoder has permission from the property owner, technically he is violating the zoning code because he does not own the land on which he’s selling his goods. The County is allowing him to continue operations through the end of this season.


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Ann Mallek

(White Hall) brought the matter up at the Board of Supervisor’s meeting on September 2, 2009. She wants County staff to investigate ways to change the zoning ordinance to make it easier for farmers to sell their goods.

“If we’re successful in our local food movement and we are successful in encouraging new faces in agriculture, I’m very hopeful we’ll have many more opportunities for our local consumers to buy directly from farmers,” Mallek said.

Amelia McCulley, the County’s Director of Zoning, said a farmer is authorized to sell goods from their own property, and also on land that is zoned for commercial uses. However, there is nothing in the zoning ordinance that allows for a farmer to sell on land he or she does not own.

Supervisor

David Slutzky

(Rio) asked County staff to expedite the study so that farmers across the County could have an answer before next spring.


Wayne Cilimberg

, the County’s Director of Planning, said that staff is currently working on other issues, and work on amendments to the zoning code have been put on hold. There are currently several frozen positions in the department, including a rural areas planner position that has never been filled. He said he would try to get the matter before the Board in time for next year, but he could not make a guarantee.

White Hall resident Bob Rash asked a series of questions during the public comment period to help shape the work of County staff.

“How can we effectively have a farmer’s market without violating the law?” Rash asked. “Are all farmers in violation if they sell off their property? But most farmers do sell off their property because their farms exist in rural areas where there is very little pedestrian  or vehicle traffic. Can other farmers join one farmer who has produce to sell and his farm is on a road where he feels there is sufficient traffic to generate the business they need? Can we get a special use permit if we can’t resolve these issues?”

When reached by phone by Charlottesville Tomorrow, Yoder was busy selling basil, cookies and other products. He dealt with four customers in the span of a five-minute phone call.

“I don’t know that we’ll be able to sell from here next year, but we hope to find a way that is mutually satisfactory,” Yoder said.

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