Zoning, agriculture and minimum acreage

The question from a local official at a recent zoning workshop was “…doesn’t a landowner need a certain amount of property to be considered agricultural for zoning purposes?” and the answer is quite simple:  no.   He was asking the question because Ohio law doesn’t allow counties and townships to use their zoning authority to prohibit agricultural land uses, except in a few limited circumstances such as platted subdivision situations.  But the law doesn’t require a minimum amount of acreage to qualify the land as “agriculture”–any amount of land can be deemed agricultural  as long as the use itself fits within the definition of agriculture provided by the zoning statute.   And if the land use is within the definition of agriculture, then zoning can’t prohibit it unless an exception applies.  The confusion over this issue is understandable; I believe it originates with requirements for the Current Agricultural Use Valuation (CAUV) tax assessment program.  CAUV participation requires a minimum of ten acres devoted to agricultural use, but less than ten acres will qualify for CAUV  if the land is devoted to agricultural use  and provided at least $2500 in average gross income over the prior three years.  Whether or not land meets the CAUV acreage requirement, the land use can still be agricultural for zoning purposes if it fits within the definition of agriculture.  For more on Ohio’s rural zoning laws, visit our website’s zoning library at http://aede.ag.ohio-state.edu/programs/aglaw/zoning_law.htm.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Zoning, agriculture and minimum acreage

  1. Julie in Warren Co.

    “CAUV participation requires a minimum of ten acres devoted to agricultural use”

    And not just ‘agricultural use’, but *commercial* agricultural use, per our county’s auditor. In these days of fewer tax dollars, auditors have no incentive to apply CAUV liberally.

    • A good point– the CAUV statute requires that the agricultural land use be “commercial.” Ohio gives the CAUV property tax break for landowners who use the land for commercial agricultural purposes, which results in reduced tax dollars for the county. Many argue that the county’s reduced revenue on CAUV land is offset by the fact that the county spends less to provide services for agricultural land, and there are also those who believe the CAUV program suffers from overuse.
      The CAUV “commercial” language creates additional confusion for zoning purposes–many zoning officials have told me that they can prohibit agricultural land uses if the landowner is not “in business.” This is incorrect, as the “commercial” requirement is in the CAUV statute and does not apply to zoning. Additionally, Ohio’s building code has an exemption from building code compliance for buildings and structures that are not used in the business of retail trade–more confusion…

  2. Rich

    Does anyone know the law about how much a Village can do to keep horses off the property? I have a chance to buy 14 acres that is zoned agriculture and was looking at putting a barn on it and getting a couple of horses. The Village says no horses. From all that I read on Ohio Revised Codes, they can’t prohibit the use of land for agriculture.

    • The “agricultural exemption” in Ohio zoning law does not apply to villages or cities; it only limits the zoning authority of counties and townships. Villages and cities have greater “home rule” authority, which does allow them to prohibit agricultural land uses within the municipality.

  3. Keith Stone

    My township zoning official will not recognize our property as being used for agricultural purposes. We are zoned agricultural, have 12 acres, horses,cows for breeding and beef, meat ducks, and sell timber for lumber. He wants a permit for any structure, even for agricultural use. He claims he does not have the authority to deem our use agricutural. He references that we are not setup for CAUV but the ORC seems pretty clear to me on defintion of something being “Incident to agricultural use” but where can I find help to stop this nonsense?

    • james

      From everything I’ve read in studying up on the powers of the township appears to limit them to ZONING matters. You are already zoned for agricultural use and building permits are ONLY required through the city or county – NOT the township. The township only comes into play IF you build a structure that violates the zoning rules, like too close to property line or outside of zoning use. Just go through your county or city for all building permits (since he can always cause problems with building without a permit by reporting you) and tell them to learn their proper place, or you’ll sue for harassment and abuse of power.

  4. How would I know whether my property is in a platted subdivision?

  5. DAVE

    I have 20 acre piece that I am building an ag building on with living accommodations for a care taker. I am enrolled in the forestry tax law. I have not nor has the builder pulled and permits or even talked to the county about the building. I assumed that since its considered exempt that I didn’t need to talk to anyone. The builiding is going to be used to manage the cutting and replanting on that tract.

    • Considering only the forestry activities, the barn would fall under Ohio’s agricultural exemption as a building that is directly related to an agricultural use of the land–it would not be subject to zoning regulations. However, the additional use of the building for a caretaker would not fall under the agricultural exemption if it would be a permanent, ongoing residence for the caretaker. This additional activity in the barn would make the building subject to zoning. Your zoning regulations will dictate whether the caretaker’s residence is a permissible use on your parcel and any regulations that apply to the use. Because a person would be living in the building, the Ohio Building Code would also apply to the construction of the building.

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