Forsyth County Board of Commissioners have recently been voting to preserve farmland around the county by approving conditional-use permits, or CUP, for the purposes of agritourism.
In November, commissioners approved conditional-use permits for five farms in Forsyth County, totaling more than 200 acres.
At a regular meeting on Thursday, Jan. 20, commissioners approved a CUP for 27.48 acres off Tallant Drive northwest Forsyth currently zoned agricultural district, A1.
Dennis Gravitt, one of the property owners, said that he and his wife have lived on the property for 60 years and that the land has also been in his wife’s family for three generations.
Currently, Gravitt said that they are using the land to keep chickens, cows and a donkey.
About nine years ago, he said that his youngest son got married on the property.
“That kind of opened the doors,” Gravitt said. “… As [our grandkids] started growing up, they had people come over, there were high school pictures [on the property] … that sort of thing.”
Gravitt said they started having barn weddings and other events on the property — 3 Oaks Farm and Events — including graduation and engagement photoshoots “several [times] a month.”
“We’re seeking this zoning to get more involved so we can hold onto the property as we get older and maybe have some groundskeepers; somebody to help keep it up and keep it in the use that it is now,” he said.
District 5 Commissioner Laura Semanson said that she thought the CUP was a “great way to keep that property in its current state as an amenity to the community.”
“This is exactly the type of thing we’re trying to encourage with these agritourism CUPs,” Semanson said.
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For farms to participate in agritourism in Forsyth County, owners must have an approved conditional-use permit so that the impacts to adjacent properties are limited, the rural character is maintained, and the agricultural heritage of the county is preserved.
Any property wishing to apply for a CUP for agritourism must be on at least 20 acres, and overnight lodging is prohibited as part of its use.
Agricultural activity permitted can include farming, horticulture, livestock rearing, and related retail uses such as offering products that support the agricultural activities of the property.
The motion passed with a unanimous vote, 4-0, with District 1 Commissioner Molly Cooper absent.