Are you considering a conservation easement? If so, check out Western Landowners Alliance Conservation Easement blog which provides an overview of these types of easements.
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 lower than normal because they are based upon farming and open space uses as opposed to full market value.
An application is required to enter into a Williamson Act contract with the county. The contract period is for ten years and renews automatically each year unless the property owner requests and receives county approval to phase out, which takes ten years to complete.
The County wants at least 100 contiguous acres in Williamson Act contract (can include multiple parcels). There are two types of contracts:
Type I Williamson Act contract is for Vineyards and Orchards
- 10 acre minimum, at least 50% of the parcel in permanent crops
Type II Williamson Act contract. There are two types of Type II contracts:
- Grazing of Livestock
- Open Space
- 40 acre minimum, at least 50% of the parcel in ag
- Sonoma County Uniform Rules for Agricultural Preserves (pdf)
- Williamson Act FAQ's by Permit Sonoma
- California Department of Conservation: Williamson Act Program
Apply with Permit Sonoma. Currently, applications are received online. Please follow the process to submit a planning application online. Questions for Permit Sonoma: firstname.lastname@example.org or (707) 565-1900 x5: M-F 10am to Noon and 1pm to 3pm. The application includes:
- PJR-099 Agricultural Preserve Application (PDF) The application and questionnaire about land usage.
- PJR-098 Land Conservation Plan (PDF) The conservation plan outlining acreage used per type of agricultural use (could be just grazing or grazing and crops, forestry, open space, fallow) and includes buildings and structures (houses, corrals, barns, etc).
- PJR-065 Agricultural Preserve Application Income Statement (PDF) Income statement that includes last 5 years of farm income – same information that is on a Schedule F.
- PJR-049 Landowners Statement of Compliance Form (PDF)
- PJR-095 At-Cost Project Reimbursement (PDF) The applications fees are charged “at-cost” to Permit Sonoma. The applicant is responsible for paying these costs even if the application is withdrawn or not approved. Initial deposit to start the process is around $3,900 (as of 1/2021).
- PJR-011 Indemnification Agreement (PDF) Required for all permit interactions with Permit Sonoma (to protect the County).
Permit Sonoma Williamson Act webpage.