Owners Will be Booted From Williamson Act

The first group of landowners booted from the Williamson Act
will receive property tax bills that jump by more than $2,400,
though some bills won’t go up at all.
Seventy-five landowners will

be taxed as much at $2,400 more than current bill

n By Matt King Staff Writer

Morgan Hill – The first group of landowners booted from the Williamson Act will receive property tax bills that jump by more than $2,400, though some bills won’t go up at all.

According to a survey conducted by the Santa Clara County Assessor’s office, 268 Williamson Act property owners will receive notices of non-renewal in January. Of those, 59 owners will see little or no change in their yearly property tax bill, another 59 will be taxed up to an additional $600, and 75 will be taxed as much as $2,400 more. Nineteen landowners will see increase of more than $2,400.

The non-renewal is the first step in the county’s plan to clean up its Williamson Act mess. The act is a 1965 law that provides a tax break in exchange for keeping land in agricultural production.

Since the law was enacted, though, county planners have done a poor job enforcing it. As a result, the county is losing tax revenue, and property owners are being refused building permits because their land does not meet the law’s minimum size requirements.

More than 1,000 of the county’s 3,000 Williamson parcels either do not include agriculture or do not meet the minimum size requirement. All of those parcels will be non-renewed by the end of 2006.

County officials also are developing guidelines to increase monitoring of Williamson Act properties and controls to ensure that Williamson parcels are kept in commercial farm uses. The county may impose fees for some of the new guidelines.

Today, a committee of the board of supervisors will consider the new regulations. The full board should take them up later this year.

The disparity in tax increases among parcels that will be non-renewed based on land values and the year in which different parcels were purchased County Assessor Larry Stone said.

“In some cases, the [market] value is the same or lower than the Williamson Act value,” Stone said. “Many people won’t be affected.”

Property owners whose land is non-renewed will have 60 days to protest. A protest will stay the tax increase for at least three years, regardless of the outcome. Non-renewed properties will increase in assessed value over a 10-year period, with the biggest jump usually occurring in the first year.

Williamson Act

A sub-committee of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors meet today to consider new

guidelines for the Williamson Act. The new

regulations mean that hundreds of property owners are about to lose an illegal tax break, and others will have to wait a decade before they can develop their property

Guidelines

Prime farm land parcels must be at least 10 acres; non-prime, or hillside, land must be at least 40 acres.

All parcels must have commercial farm use – verifiable through tax forms – on at least 75 percent of the land.

Non-compliant parcels will be non-renewed in 2006. The process takes 10 years, but tax bills will jump sharply inn 2007.

Landowners who prove a viable farm use may be allowed to stay in the act even if they don’t meet the minimum size requirements.

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