Land Use program


In 1971, the Virginia General Assembly enacted a law permitting localities to adopt a program of special assessments for agricultural, horticultural, forest, and open space lands.

The purpose of the program is stated as:

  • To encourage the preservation and proper use of such real estate in order to assure a readily available source of agricultural, horticultural and forest products and of open spaces within the reach of concentrations of population.
  • To conserve natural resources in forms which will prevent erosion and to protect adequate and safe water supplies.
  • To preserve scenic natural beauty and open spaces.
  • To promote proper land-use planning and the orderly development of real estate for the accommodation of an expanding population, and
  • To promote a balanced economy and ameliorate pressures which force conversion of such real estate to more intensive uses and which are attributable in part to the assessment of such real estate at values incompatible with its use and preservation for agricultural, horticultural, forest, or open space purposes.

The Land Use Program is a state program, adopted by county ordinance, which provides for the assessment of land based on use value rather than fair market value.  The tax reduction is a deferral, not a discount.  The tax reduction must be repaid with simple interest if the use of the land changes which is known as a rollback tax.  The requirements for qualification and use values are established by the State Land Evaluation Advisory Council.

In order to qualify, land should have been in production for five (5) years prior to entering the program and must be in one of the following use categories.  Any excess acreage that does not qualify will be assessed at fair market value.


Five (5) acre minimum, excluding one (1) acre house site.

Land must be devoted to hay, grain, crops, pasture, etc. Pasture must have at least 1 head of cattle per 5 acres, 5 swine or 5 sheep per 5 acres, 66 turkeys or 100 chickens per 5 acres. Pleasure horses DO NOT qualify.

Horticulture use

Five (5) acre minimum, excluding one (1) acre house site.

Land must be in production for the sale of fruits, nuts, berries, vegetables. Also includes Christmas trees, nursery and/or floral products.


Twenty (20) acres minimum, excluding one (1) acre house site.

Land must be devoted to productive or nonproductive forest land. A Forest Management Plan must be submitted to certify forest use. Your Forest Management Plan can be prepared either by you or by a professional consulting forester. You should be working toward a commercial timber harvest.

Your Forest Management Plan needs to include the following:
Acres in growing managed timber
Species and size of timber crop present
Timber management goal(s) (i.e., what purpose you are managing and growing timber for)
How you plan to manage the timber crop
How soil and water quality issued will be addressed during and after harvest (i.e., adherence to the Best Management Practices in accordance with the Virginia Department of Forestry)

The local forestry consultants are Greg Estoll and Andrew Brown with the Department of Forestry. They can be reached at 276-988-3723 and their office is located at 599 Fairground Rd, Tazewell, VA, 24651.

open space

Five (5) acre minimum, excluding one (1) acre house site.

Land must conform to the local land use plan and must provide for parks or recreational purposes, conservation of land or other natural resources, floodways, historic or scenic areas for the public interest.

Applications must be received by November 1st to qualify for land use for the next taxable year

There is a $10.00 filing fee for the first parcel and $0.50 for each additional parcel. Applications will not be accepted if there are any delinquent taxes on the property.

Rollback taxes are assessed for the current year and the five (5) preceding years, in which the real estate was valued, assessed and taxed under the land use ordinance. The taxes are assessed when the property no longer conforms to the Standards for Classification of the Land Use Program. The taxes, plus simple interest, are calculated on the difference in assessment between the fair market value and the use value (known as the deferred value). The person who changes the use of the property will receive the rollback tax bill. Examples of change in use could include:  (1) rezoning, (2) selling a non-qualifying acreage, or (3) land no longer being in production.