The Agricultural, Forest and Open Space Act of 1976
More commonly referred to as the “Greenbelt Law,” the Agricultural, Forest and Open Space Act of 1976 was enacted to encourage retention of green spaces around urban areas and to prevent the loss of family farms due to assessments based on development speculation values, rather than the property’s current use. Three types of land may qualify for greenbelt classification:
Agricultural Land: a tract of at least 15 acres that is currently used for farming — defined as the production or growing of crops, plants, animals, nursery or floral products. A tract of at least 10 acres, but smaller than 15 acres, may qualify for greenbelt designation if the owner has at least one other tract in the program that meets the minimum 15 acre qualification. The current test of farm use is a property’s ability to generate an average annual income of at least $1,500 over any 3-year period. Property also may qualify, regardless of income, if: you, your parent or your spouse has farmed the property for at least 25 years, you continue to live on the property, and the property is not currently used for a purpose inconsistent with farming.
Forest Land: a tract of at least 15 acres engaged in growing trees under a sound program of sustained yield management or having tree growth in such quantity and quality as to be managed as a forest.
Open Space Land: a tract of at least 3 acres maintained in an open or natural condition for public enjoyment and use.
Note: Within all three classes, the law limits an owner’s qualification to 1,500 acres in any given county.
All necessary forms to apply for Greenbelt designation are available at our office. The application, including a certification from the owner regarding the property’s use, can be filled out and approved during a short office visit. After approval, the property owner is responsible for recording the application at the office of the Davidson County Register of Deeds. Once enrolled, the owner is not required to re-apply each year, but is required by law to promptly notify the Assessor of any change in the use or ownership of the property which would affect its Greenbelt eligibility.
Owners of Greenbelt property may be liable to pay what are referred to as “rollback” taxes on the property if it becomes disqualified for any of the following reasons:
– size of tract or its use no longer meets qualifications
– the owner requests in writing to withdraw from Greenbelt status
– the property is covered by a recorded subdivision plat, unless the owner can still prove farm use
– property is sold and converted to other use
“Rollback” is the difference between a Greenbelt assessment and the market value assessment that would have applied if the property had not been in the program. In effect, it is paying back the tax savings the owner enjoyed under Greenbelt designation. For Agricultural and Forest properties, the rollback period is the current year and the two preceding years; for Open Space property, the rollback is the five most current years. If only a portion of the property is sold or converted to a non-qualifying use, rollback is assessed only on that portion if the remainder of the property still qualifies. Rollback assessments are made on the next tax roll after the property no longer qualifies for Greenbelt. An owner should understand “rollback” fully before applying for the program and should notify the Assessor promptly of any changes to eliminate the possibility that penalties may be applied if it is shown that the owner knowingly avoided notifying officials.