Williamson Act



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The Land Conservation Act

The California Land Conservation Act of 1965–commonly referred to as the Williamson Act–enables local governments to enter into contracts with private landowners for the purpose of restricting specific parcels of land to agricultural or related open space use. In return, landowners receive property tax assessments which are much lower than normal because they are based upon farming and open space uses as opposed to full market value. The Open Space Subvention Act of 1971 provided local governments an annual subvention of forgone property tax revenues from the state through the year 2009; these payment have been suspended in more recent years due to revenue shortfalls. (Excerpt from http://www.conservation.ca.gov/dlrp/lca )

Map of the Williamson Act for San Diego County

Here is a copy of the Williamson Act:

GOVERNMENT CODE
SECTION 51200-51207

51200.  This chapter shall be known as the California Land
Conservation Act of 1965 or as the Williamson Act.



51201.  As used in this chapter, unless otherwise apparent from the
context, the following terms have the following meanings:
   (a) "Agricultural commodity" means any and all plant and animal
products produced in this state for commercial purposes, including,
but not limited to, plant products used for producing biofuels.
   (b) "Agricultural use" means use of land, including but not
limited to greenhouses, for the purpose of producing an agricultural
commodity for commercial purposes.
   (c) "Prime agricultural land" means any of the following:
   (1) All land that qualifies for rating as class I or class II in
the Natural Resource Conservation Service land use capability
classifications.
   (2) Land which qualifies for rating 80 through 100 in the Storie
Index Rating.
   (3) Land which supports livestock used for the production of food
and fiber and which has an annual carrying capacity equivalent to at
least one animal unit per acre as defined by the United States
Department of Agriculture.
   (4) Land planted with fruit- or nut-bearing trees, vines, bushes,
or crops which have a nonbearing period of less than five years and
which will normally return during the commercial bearing period on an
annual basis from the production of unprocessed agricultural plant
production not less than two hundred dollars ($200) per acre.
   (5) Land which has returned from the production of unprocessed
agricultural plant products an annual gross value of not less than
two hundred dollars ($200) per acre for three of the previous five
years.
   (d) "Agricultural preserve" means an area devoted to either
agricultural use, as defined in subdivision (b), recreational use as
defined in subdivision (n), or open-space use as defined in
subdivision (o), or any combination of those uses and which is
established in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.
   (e) "Compatible use" is any use determined by the county or city
administering the preserve pursuant to Section 51231, 51238, or
51238.1 or by this act to be compatible with the agricultural,
recreational, or open-space use of land within the preserve and
subject to contract. "Compatible use" includes agricultural use,
recreational use or open-space use unless the board or council finds
after notice and hearing that the use is not compatible with the
agricultural, recreational or open-space use to which the land is
restricted by contract pursuant to this chapter.
   (f) "Board" means the board of supervisors of a county which
establishes or proposes to establish an agricultural preserve or
which enters or proposes to enter into a contract on land within an
agricultural preserve pursuant to this chapter.
   (g) "Council" means the city council of a city which establishes
or proposes to establish an agricultural preserve or which enters or
proposes to enter into a contract on land within an agricultural
preserve pursuant to this chapter.
   (h) Except where it is otherwise apparent from the context,
"county" or "city" means the county or city having jurisdiction over
the land.
   (i) A "scenic highway corridor" is an area adjacent to, and within
view of, the right-of-way of:
   (1) An existing or proposed state scenic highway in the state
scenic highway system established by the Legislature pursuant to
Article 2.5 (commencing with Section 260) of Chapter 2 of Division 1
of the Streets and Highways Code and which has been officially
designated by the Department of Transportation as an official state
scenic highway; or
   (2) A county scenic highway established pursuant to Article 2.5
(commencing with Section 260) of Chapter 2 of Division 1 of the
Streets and Highways Code, if each of the following conditions have
been met:
   (A) The scenic highway is included in an adopted general plan of
the county or city; and
   (B) The scenic highway corridor is included in an adopted specific
plan of the county or city; and
   (C) Specific proposals for implementing the plan, including
regulation of land use, have been approved by the Advisory Committee
on a Master Plan for Scenic Highways, and the county or city highway
has been officially designated by the Department of Transportation as
an official county scenic highway.
   (j) A "wildlife habitat area" is a land or water area designated
by a board or council, after consulting with and considering the
recommendation of the Department of Fish and Game, as an area of
importance for the protection or enhancement of the wildlife
resources of the state.
   (k) A "saltpond" is an area which, for at least three consecutive
years immediately prior to being placed within an agricultural
preserve pursuant to this chapter, has been used for the solar
evaporation of seawater in the course of salt production for
commercial purposes.
   (l) A "managed wetland area" is an area, which may be an area
diked off from the ocean or any bay, river or stream to which water
is occasionally admitted, and which, for at least three consecutive
years immediately prior to being placed within an agricultural
preserve pursuant to this chapter, was used and maintained as a
waterfowl hunting preserve or game refuge or for agricultural
purposes.
   (m) A "submerged area" is any land determined by the board or
council to be submerged or subject to tidal action and found by the
board or council to be of great value to the state as open space.
   (n) "Recreational use" is the use of land in its agricultural or
natural state by the public, with or without charge, for any of the
following: walking, hiking, picnicking, camping, swimming, boating,
fishing, hunting, or other outdoor games or sports for which
facilities are provided for public participation. Any fee charged for
the recreational use of land as defined in this subdivision shall be
in a reasonable amount and shall not have the effect of unduly
limiting its use by the public. Any ancillary structures necessary
for a recreational use shall comply with the provisions of Section
51238.1.
   (o) "Open-space use" is the use or maintenance of land in a manner
that preserves its natural characteristics, beauty, or openness for
the benefit and enjoyment of the public, to provide habitat for
wildlife, or for the solar evaporation of seawater in the course of
salt production for commercial purposes, if the land is within:
   (1) A scenic highway corridor, as defined in subdivision (i).
   (2) A wildlife habitat area, as defined in subdivision (j).
   (3) A saltpond, as defined in subdivision (k).
   (4) A managed wetland area, as defined in subdivision (l).
   (5) A submerged area, as defined in subdivision (m).
   (6)  An area enrolled in the United States Department of
Agriculture Conservation Reserve Program or Conservation Reserve
Enhancement Program.
   (p) "Development" means, as used in Section 51223, the
construction of buildings or the use of the restricted property if
the buildings or use are unrelated to the agricultural use, the
open-space use, or uses compatible with either agricultural or
open-space uses of the property, or substantially impair the
agricultural, open-space, or a combination of the agricultural and
open-space uses of the property. Agricultural use, open-space use,
uses compatible with either agricultural or open-space uses, or the
acquisition of land or an interest in land are not development.



51203.  (a) The assessor shall determine the current fair market
value of the land as if it were free of the contractual restriction
pursuant to Section 51283. The Department of Conservation or the
landowner, also referred to in this section as "parties," may provide
information to assist the assessor to determine the value. Any
information provided to the assessor shall be served on the other
party, unless the information was provided at the request of the
assessor, and would be confidential under law if required of an
assessee.
   (b) Within 45 days of receiving the assessor's notice pursuant to
subdivision (a) of Section 51283 or Section 51283.4, if the
Department of Conservation or the landowner believes that the current
fair market valuation certified pursuant to subdivision (b) of
Section 51283 or Section 51283.4 is not accurate, the department or
the landowner may request formal review from the county assessor in
the county considering the petition to cancel the contract. The
department or the landowner shall submit to the assessor and the
other party the reasons for believing the valuation is not accurate
and the additional information the requesting party believes may
substantiate a recalculation of the property valuation. The assessor
may recover his or her reasonable costs of the formal review from the
party requesting the review, and may provide an estimate of those
costs to the requesting party. The recovery of these costs from the
department may be deducted by the city or county from cancellation
fees received pursuant to this chapter prior to transmittal to the
Controller for deposit in the Soil Conservation Fund. The assessor
may require a deposit from the landowner to cover the contingency
that payment of a cancellation fee will not necessarily result from
the completion of a formal review. This subdivision shall not be
construed as a limitation on the authority provided in Section 51287
for cities or counties to recover their costs in the cancellation
process, except that the assessor's costs of conducting a formal
review shall not be borne by the nonrequesting party.
   (1) If no request is made within 45 days of receiving notice by
certified mail of the valuation, the assessor's valuation shall be
used to calculate the fee.
   (2) Upon receiving a request for formal review, the assessor shall
formally review his or her valuation if, based on the determination
of the assessor, the information may have a material effect on
valuation of the property. The assessor shall notify the parties that
the formal review is being undertaken and that information to aid
the assessor's review shall be submitted within 30 days of the date
of the notice to the parties. Any information submitted to the
assessor shall be served on the other party who shall have 30 days to
respond to that information to the assessor. If the response to the
assessor contains new information, the party receiving that response
shall have 20 days to respond to the assessor as to the new
information. All submittals and responses to the assessor shall be
served on the other party by personal service or an affidavit of
mailing. The assessor shall avoid ex parte contacts during the formal
review and shall report any such contacts to the department and the
landowner at the same time the review is complete. The assessor shall
complete the review no later than 120 days of receiving the request.
   (3) At the conclusion of the formal review, the assessor shall
either revise the cancellation valuation or determine that the
original cancellation valuation is accurate. The assessor shall send
the revised valuation or notice of the determination that the
valuation is accurate to the department, the landowner, and the board
or council considering the petition to cancel the contract. The
assessor shall include a brief narrative of what consideration was
given to the items of information and responses directly relating to
the cancellation value submitted by the parties. The assessor shall
give no consideration to a party's information or response that was
not served on the other party. If the assessor denies a formal
review, a brief narrative shall be provided to the parties indicating
the basis for the denial, if requested.
   (c) For purposes of this section, the valuation date of any
revised valuation pursuant to formal review or following judicial
challenge shall remain the date of the assessor's initial valuation,
or his or her initial recomputation pursuant to Section 51283.4. For
purposes of cancellation fee calculation in a tentative cancellation
as provided in Section 51283, or in a recomputation for final
cancellation as provided in Section 51283.4, a cancellation value
shall be considered current for one year after its determination and
certification by the assessor.
   (d) Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, the
department and the landowner may agree on a cancellation valuation of
the land. The agreed valuation shall serve as the cancellation
valuation pursuant to Section 51283 or Section 51283.4. The agreement
shall be transmitted to the board or council considering the
petition to cancel the contract.
   (e) If a contract with a city or county includes an additional
cancellation fee pursuant to Section 51240, the department shall
provide a preliminary valuation to the county assessor of the county
in which the land is located and the board of supervisors or the city
council at least 60 days prior to the effective date of the final
cancellation valuation pursuant to subdivision (d). The preliminary
valuation shall include a description of the rationale and facts
considered by the department in determining the cancellation value.
The assessor may provide comments on the preliminary valuation to the
board of supervisors or city council. The board of supervisors or
city council may provide comments on the preliminary valuation and
cancellation value, if submitted, to the department. Prior to
determining the final cancellation valuation, the department shall
consider the comments of the board or council concerning the
preliminary valuation and cancellation valuation, if submitted.
   (f) This section represents the exclusive administrative procedure
for appealing a cancellation valuation calculated pursuant to this
section. The Department of Conservation shall represent the interests
of the state in the administrative and judicial remedies for
challenging the determination of a cancellation valuation or
cancellation fee.


51205.  Notwithstanding any provisions of this chapter to the
contrary, land devoted to recreational use or land within a scenic
highway corridor, a wildlife habitat area, a saltpond, a managed
wetland area, or a submerged area may be included within an
agricultural preserve pursuant to this chapter. When such land is
included within an agricultural preserve, the city or county within
which it is situated may contract with the owner for the purpose of
restricting the land to recreational or open space use and uses
compatible therewith in the same manner as provided in this chapter
for land devoted to agricultural use. For purposes of this section,
where the term "agricultural land" is used in this chapter, it shall
be deemed to include land devoted to recreational use and land within
a scenic highway corridor, a wildlife habitat area, a saltpond, a
managed wetland area, or a submerged area, and where the term
"agricultural use" is used in this chapter, it shall be deemed to
include recreational and open space use.



51205.1.  Notwithstanding any provisions of this chapter to the
contrary, land within a scenic highway corridor, as defined in
subdivision (i) of Section 51201, shall, upon the request of the
owner, be included in an agricultural preserve pursuant to this
chapter. When such land is included within an agricultural preserve,
the city or county within which it is situated shall contract with
the owner for the purpose of restricting the land to agricultural use
as defined in subdivision (b), recreational use as defined in
subdivision (n), open-space use as defined in subdivision (o),
compatible use as defined in subdivision (e), or any combination of
such uses.



51206.  The Department of Conservation may meet with and assist
local, regional, state, and federal agencies, organizations,
landowners, or any other person or entity in the interpretation of
this chapter. The department may research, publish, and disseminate
information regarding the policies, purposes, procedures,
administration, and implementation of this chapter. This section
shall be liberally construed to permit the department to advise any
interested person or entity regarding this chapter.



51207.  (a) On or before May 1 of every other year, the Department
of Conservation shall report to the Legislature regarding the
implementation of this chapter by cities and counties.
   (b) The report shall contain, but not be limited to, the number of
acres of land under contract in each category and the number of
acres of land which were removed from contract through cancellation,
eminent domain, annexation, or nonrenewal.
   (c) The report shall also contain the following specific
information relating to not less than one-third of all cities and
counties participating in the Williamson Act program:
   (1) The number of contract cancellation requests for which notices
of hearings were mailed to the Director of Conservation pursuant to
Section 51284 which were approved by boards or councils during the
prior two years or for which approval is still pending by boards or
councils.
   (2) The amount of cancellation fees payable to the county
treasurer as deferred taxes and which are required to be transmitted
to the Controller pursuant to subdivision (d) of Section 51283 which
have not been collected or which remain unpaid.
   (3) The total number of acres covered by certificates of
cancellation of contracts during the previous two years.
   (4) The number of nonrenewal and withdrawal of renewal notices
received pursuant to Section 51245 and the number of expiration
notices received pursuant to Section 51246 during the previous two
years.
   (5) The number of acres covered by nonrenewal notices that were
not withdrawn and expiration notices during the previous two years.
   (d) The department may recommend changes to this chapter which
would further promote its purposes.
   (e) The Legislature may, upon request of the department,
appropriate funds from the deferred taxes deposited in the General
Fund pursuant to subdivision (d) of Section 51283 in an amount
sufficient to prepare the report required by this section.