Open Space Act
Land owners who wish current use assessment for property tax purposes on lands eligible for classification under the Open Space program, must submit an application to the Lewis County Assessor's Office by December 31st. Applications taken in the calendar year prior to December 31st are inspected in the next year and either approved or denied. If the application is approved, it is taxed in the subsequent year. It takes two years after application for it to affect your taxes.
Provided that acreage is being used as originally intended, valuation of land for tax purposes under the Open Space Act is determined on the basis of "current use” rather than "highest and best use.” Under circumstances where land use is changed or withdrawn, the land becomes liable for additional. The additional tax calculation for removal is in RCW 84.34.108 and is the difference between what you actually paid and should have paid if you were not in the program. Interest and penalties are added to the difference of what you paid and what you should have paid as if the taxes were delinquent. The removal is for the last seven years the property was in classification. Accordingly, some of the classified land area may be withdrawn as long as remaining acreage meets the original requirements.
The Open Space Act encompasses three categories.
- First, any agricultural lands approved for classification must be used for livestock or agricultural production. Farms with less than 20 acres are subject to minimum earnings in order to qualify.
- A second category of Open Space land exists for lands that are preserved in their natural state. More specifically, current use of this land must conserve and enhance natural or scenic resources; protect streams or water supplies; promote conservation of soils, wetlands, beaches or tidal marshes; or preserve archaeological and historic sites.
- A third category is Open Space Farm and Agriculture Conservation lands. The farm must be ready to return to farming at all times, but income requirements may be suspended for up to 10 years. At the end of ten years, you must return the farm to active farming or pay the additional taxes to remove it from the program. The Farm and Agricuture Conservation program is valued and taxed at a higher rate than Open Space Farm and Agriculture land.
Lewis County collapsed the Open Space Timber Program into the Designated Forest Land Program in 2014 per the change in the law by the Legislature and the adoption of the Ordinance by the Board of County Commissioners. We no longer accept applictions for Current Use Timber since that date. All forest lands must qualify under RCW 84.33 for Designated Forest Land to get tax preferential treatment.
Property owners may direct inquiries concerning Open Space classification to 360-740-1392. Application processing fees for Open Space programs must be submitted with the application and are not refundable should classification be denied.
Below are links to publications that may help you decide if the programs work for the property you own or answer questions about classified lands in the program.
Application fees as of 1/1/2017-
For Open Space Farm and Agriculture Lands and Open Space Lands:
- $350.00 base application fee - per parcel
- + Any recording fees charged by the Auditor's Office (fees subject to change by County Auditor)