Open Space

Agriculture Security Area Fact Sheet

What is an Agricultural Security Area?

Act 43 of 1981 allows any owner of land used for agricultural production (cropland, pasture or woodland) to submit a petition to their municipality requesting the creation of an Agricultural Security Area (ASA). For the original creation of the area, at least 250 acres of land must be involved. The land may be owned by more than one person, and may be comprised of tracts that are non-contiguous provided they are at least 10 acres in size. In 1998, Charlestown Township received a petition from various landowners, which resulted in the formation of our ASA totaling 1,495.1 acres. Since then, an additional 436.18 acres have been added for a total of 1,931.28 acres, close to 25% of the Township land. In Charlestown, any parcel contiguous to others in the District plus any non-contiguous parcel over 10 acres in size in the Farm Residential District is eligible to join our existing ASA. Farmland in East Pikeland Township is also eligible for inclusion.

Every seven years, an ASA must be reviewed and re-certified. This process took place in 2011 and will be reviewed again in 2018.

Key Features

  • Initiated by petition of farm landowners
  • Minimum of 500 total acres
  • May include non-adjacent farmland parcels (if 10+ acres in size)
  • Township or borough level program
  • Seven year lifetime, then reviewed
  • Parcels may be added during seven year period
  • Participation by landowners is voluntary
  • Participants receive special consideration regarding: local ordinance effects on farming activities and nuisances, state agency rules and regulations; review of farmland condemnation by state and local government agencies; review of state-funded development projects
  • Participants remain eligible to sell agricultural conservation easements

Benefits of Agricultural Security Areas

When an Agricultural Security Area is formed, it entitles the participating landowners to special consideration from the local governing body and state government agencies. The local government unit may not impose ordinances that unreasonably restrict farm structures or practices within the Area, nor may normal farming operations and practices be deemed “nuisances” in a nuisance ordinance. (The act doesn’t take away a local government’s right to control nuisances if they bear directly on public health and safety). State government agencies must modify their administrative regulations and procedures to encourage viable farming in Agricultural Security Areas.

Land condemnation within ASAs, proposed by Commonwealth or Local Agencies such as municipal authorities, school boards and governing bodies, must be reviewed and approved before land may be condemned. In addition, all state-funded development projects, which might affect an established Area, must be reviewed. Modifications may be proposed to ensure the integrity of the Agricultural Security Area.

There are statewide programs to purchase agricultural conservation easements from landowners in ASAs. Agricultural conservation easements are similar to the commonly known “development rights” but they actually have the right to prevent development. Farmers willing to sell conservation easements would be compensated for the development value of the land without having to take it out of agricultural production.

FAQs

Is my property eligible for inclusion?

Any parcel 10 or more acres in size in Charlestown’s Farm Residential (FR) District is eligible. Parcels in East Pikeland Township may also be eligible. There is no obligation on the landowner to refrain from using their land for non-agricultural uses.

Are there any restrictions on land use within an ASA?

There are no restrictions placed on land use as a result of being in an ASA. A landowner retains the right to subdivide, sell, or change the use of his land regardless of his participation in an ASA.

Will I be penalized if I change land uses while in an ASA?

Participation in an ASA is purely voluntary. There are no penalties involved.

Is the ASA designation permanent?

No. The ASA is reviewed every seven years after its establishment. Properties that no longer meet the criteria will be removed from the ASA.

Can an ASA be in more than one Township?

Yes, but approval must be given from each township. If one of the Townships involved disapproves the petition, the acreage in that Township will not be included.

Will I have to have my land surveyed if I join the ASA?

No survey of parcels is required except when an individual is putting a portion and not his entire acreage into the ASA.

Can forestland be in an ASA?

Yes, forestland is included under the definition of “crops, livestock and livestock products” in Act 43.

Can I participate in the ASA even if my land does not connect with other ASA parcels?

Yes, provided the parcel is at least 10 acres in size.

How do I request that my parcel(s) be considered for addition to Charlestown’s ASA?

Simply complete and return the enclosed. “PROPOSAL FOR THE CREATION OR MODIFICATION OF AN AGRICULTURAL SECURITY AREA” form to the Township Office. Call the Township Office at (610) 240-0326 if you need assistance in completing the information. There are no costs involved for enrolling in the program.

Additional Information

Chester County Open Space Preservation
Director
William D. Gladden
601 Westtown Road, Suite 390
West Chester, PA, 19380-0990
Ph: (610) 344-5656
Website

ASA Application

Updated: January 7, 2017