The owners of a piece of agricultural land of more than 130 acres in the Adelaida area of the North County have entered into a new conservation contract with the county.
Willow Creek Newco LLC, a corporation headquartered in Orange County, sought the renewal of a previous contract with the county after a lot line adjustment added 1,944 square feet to the plot, which is about seven miles northwest of Templeton.
The contract is handled under the guidelines of the California Land Conservation Act of 1965, more familiarly known as the Williamson Act. The reason the contract needed county approval is that landowners get a property tax break based on the land’s use for agriculture, rather than full market value.
Because of the tax breaks and the interpretation of open space and agricultural designations, Williamson Act contracts attract a healthy measure of scrutiny from various agencies.
According to Terry Wahler, senior planner with the county Department of Planning and Building, the Planning Commission, County Counsel’s Office and Agricultural Preserve Committee (comprised of representatives from the Agricultural Liaison Committee, the Assessor’s Office, the Agriculture Department, the Department of Planning and Building, and the Farm Advisor’s Office) reviewed the contract on this particular parcel.
In the past, according to Wahler, the county would receive a measure of compensation from the state to help cover the tax break. However, no such funding has been granted by the state since the 2008-09 budget year.
In a staff report to supervisors, it’s suggested that “overall tax impacts should be considered on a
program-wide basis rather than on an individual basis.”
According to the county Tax Collector’s Office, two assessor parcel numbers are involved in the contract, totaling $25,617.14 in property tax obligations. That amount doesn’t change from the previous contract’s assessments.
The contract calls for a term of 20 years in 10-year increments.
Landowners who want to break the contract before its termination can be taken to court by the county, which “may take any other action legally available to enforce the terms of this contract.”
Such action can lead to hefty penalties against the property owner.