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 uses. In return, landowners receive property tax assessments which are typically lower because the tax assessments are based upon agricultural uses as opposed to full potential market value.
Historically, local governments receive an annual subvention of forgone property tax revenues from the state through the Open Space Subvention Act of 1971. Subvention payments were suspended in FY 09-10 as a result of the state’s fiscal constraints. The Williamson Act contracts between landowners and local governments, however, remain in force regardless of the availability of subvention funds. More general information on the California Land Conservation Act of 1965 (Williamson Act) can be found on the California Department of Conservation’s website.
The County of Monterey provides two options for landowners who wish to enforceably restrict land to agricultural uses: Agricultural Preserves and Farmland Security Zones. Entering into agricultural preserve and farmland security zone contracts is entirely voluntary for both the landowner and the county.
Importantly, the minimum initial term for an agricultural preserve and farmland security zone contract in Monterey County is 20 years. Contracts self-renew annually, unless either party files a “notice of non-renewal.” If a notice of non-renewal is filed, the taxes begin to rise as the contract runs out the remaining years of the term.
Monterey County has specific qualifications for the establishment of agricultural preserves and farmland security zones.