The story of the SLEAC Manual began in 1971 when the Virginia General Assembly enacted a law permitting localities to adopt a program of special assessments for agricultural, horticultural, forest and open space lands (Sections 58.1-3229 through 58.1-3244 of the Code of Virginia). While the purpose language originally outlined in Section 58.1-3229 has since been removed, as established at that time, the purpose of the program was stated as the following:
- 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.