October 19, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/
-- Newly passed California laws could revolutionize the process by which zoning and use laws are formulated for land parcels across the state. The new regulations deal with the topic of so-called "urban agriculture," and, in some ways, blur the lines between commercial, agricultural and residential land use.
The legislation recently signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown - authored and championed by State Senator Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) - gives local municipalities the freedom to lower the assessed value of and offer tax breaks for landowners who can commit to using the land for agricultural purposes for a set time. The key difference in this legislation, though, is not that the land will be used for agricultural purposes
, but that it is aimed at smaller lots (three acres or less) located amidst homes or businesses in urban areas.
The urban agriculture movement
The new legislative scheme is a huge step for the state's "urban agriculture" movement, a practice that has been garnering support across the state. It is part of a push for more local, healthy food production that is economically sound, environmentally aware, and responsibly grown.
This law supports the urban agriculture movement; if landowners will pledge to grow crops of food on the land for a period of five years, their property will be assessed at a lower rate, thus giving them significant tax benefits. This sort of arrangement is ideal for property owners who had been languishing with overgrown parking lots or dilapidated buildings and weren'; by simply converting the land to make it suitable for agricultural use, they will not only gain rental income from a crop-growing tenant, they will also enjoy a much lower property tax rate.
The law - and much of the information about urban agriculture as a whole - comes from Nicholas Reed and Juan Carlos Cancino, founders of what many consider the birthplace of urban agriculture, the San Francisco Greenhouse Project. Their concepts, along with support from urban planners, a former tax assessor (and now senator, the bill's author, Phil Ting) and the leader of a preexisting urban agriculture project that provides food for needy families across Los Angeles, were shaped into what political insiders call a "hybrid of the Williamson Act...and the Mills Act" that will both preserve urban life while offering agricultural alternatives.
The law does not automatically mean that every landowner who wants to pursue small-scale urban agriculture will be entitled to tax breaks, or will even be allowed to plant crops. Participation in the program is voluntary, so it is possible that landowners will need to make a persuasive case to their particular county zoning
and tax assessing departments. If you need help convincing local authorities that you should be allowed to transform your undeveloped acreage into an urban agriculture showpiece, seek the assistance of a skilled zoning and land use attorney in your area.
Article provided by Timothy J. Morgan, Attorney at Law
Visit us at www.timothyjmorgan.com