303. Agricultural districts; creation. 1. Any owner or owners of land may submit a proposal to the county legislative body for the creation of an agricultural district within such county, provided that such owner or owners own at least two hundred fifty acres of the land proposed to be included in the district. Such proposal shall be submitted in such manner and form as may be prescribed by the commissioner, shall include a description of the proposed district, including a map delineating the exterior boundaries of the district which shall conform to tax parcel boundaries, and the tax map identification numbers for every parcel in the proposed district. The proposal shall include a review period of eight years.
2. Upon the receipt of such a proposal, the county legislative body:
a. shall thereupon provide notice of such proposal by publishing a notice in a newspaper having general circulation within the proposed district and by posting a notice on the home page of the county's website; posting such notice in five conspicuous places within the proposed district; and providing such notice in writing by first class mail to those municipalities whose territory encompasses the proposed district. The notice shall contain the following information:
(1) a statement that a proposal for an agricultural district has been filed with the county legislative body pursuant to this article;
(2) a statement that the proposal will be on file open to public inspection in the county clerk's office;
(3) a statement that any county landowner or municipality whose territory encompasses the proposed district may propose a modification of the proposed district in such form and manner as may be prescribed by the commissioner;
(4) a statement that the proposed modification must be filed with the county clerk and the clerk of the county legislature within thirty days of the publication and posting and mailing of such notice; and
(5) a statement that at the termination of the thirty day period, the proposal and proposed modifications will be submitted to the county agricultural and farmland protection board and that thereafter a public hearing will be held on the proposal, proposed modifications, and recommendations of the county agricultural and farmland protection board;
b. shall receive any proposals for modifications of such proposal which may be submitted by proponents of the district, any county landowners or municipalities within thirty days of the publication and posting and mailing of such notice;
c. shall, upon the termination of such thirty day period, refer such proposal and proposed modifications to the county agricultural and farmland protection board, which shall, after consultation with the county planning board, within forty-five days report to the county legislative body its recommendations concerning the proposal and proposed modifications; and
d. shall hold a public hearing in the following manner:
(1) The hearing shall be held at a place within the proposed district or otherwise readily accessible to the proposed district;
(2) The notice shall contain the following information:
(a) a statement of the time, date and place of the public hearing;
(b) a description of the proposed district, any proposed additions and any recommendations of the county agricultural and farmland protection board; and
(c) a statement that the public hearing will be held concerning:
(i) the original proposal;
(ii) any written amendments proposed during the thirty day review period; and
(iii) any recommendations proposed by the county agricultural and farmland protection board;
(3) The notice shall be published in a newspaper having a general circulation within the proposed district and posted on the home page of the county's website and shall be given in writing by first class mail to those municipalities whose territory encompasses the proposed district and any proposed modifications, owners of real property within such a proposed district or any proposed modifications who are listed on the most recent assessment roll, the commissioner and the advisory council on agriculture.
3. The following factors shall be considered by the county agricultural and farmland protection board and identified as issues for comment at the public hearing:
a. the viability of active farming within the proposed district and in areas adjacent thereto;
b. the presence of any viable farm lands within the proposed district and adjacent thereto that are not now in active farming;
c. the nature and extent of land uses other than active farming within the proposed district and adjacent thereto;
d. county developmental patterns and needs; and
e. any other matters which the county legislative body deems to be relevant.
In judging viability, any relevant agricultural viability maps prepared by the commissioner shall be considered, as well as soil, climate, topography, other natural factors, markets for farm products, the extent and nature of farm improvements, the present status of farming, anticipated trends in agricultural economic conditions and technology, and such other factors as may be relevant.
4. The county legislative body, after receiving the report and recommendations, including any recommendations of the county planning board, of the county agricultural and farmland protection board and after such public hearing, may adopt as a plan the proposal or any modification of the proposal it deems appropriate or may act to reject the proposal.
5. All plans that are adopted shall include: (a) a review period of eight years; (b) only whole tax parcels in the proposed district; and (c) to the extent feasible, include adjacent viable farm lands, and exclude, to the extent feasible, nonviable farm land and non-farm land.
6. Upon the adoption of a plan, the county legislative body shall submit it to the commissioner. Adopted plans shall be submitted within one year after receipt of a complete proposal as described in subdivision one of this section. The commissioner may, upon application by the county legislative body and for good cause shown, extend the period for submission once for up to six additional months.
7. The commissioner shall have sixty days after receipt of the plan within which to certify to the county legislative body whether the plan is eligible for districting, whether the area to be districted consists predominantly of viable agricultural land, and whether the plan of the proposed district is feasible, and will serve the public interest by assisting in maintaining a viable agricultural industry within the district and the state. The commissioner shall submit a copy of such plan to the advisory council on agriculture.
8. If the commissioner certifies the plan of the proposed district pursuant to subdivision seven of this section, the district shall be created immediately upon certification.
9. Upon the creation of an agricultural district, the description thereof, which shall include tax map identification numbers for all parcels within the district, plus a map delineating the exterior boundaries of the district in relation to tax parcel boundaries, shall be filed by the county legislative body with the county clerk, the county director of real property tax services, and the commissioner. The commissioner, on petition of the county legislative body, may, for good cause shown, approve the correction of any errors in materials filed pursuant to a district creation at any time subsequent to the creation of any agricultural district.
Last modified: February 3, 2019