Williamson Act Administration
What is this service?
The Department of Planning & Building administers land conservation contracts under the Williamson Act, which provides a reduction of property taxes to owners of farmland and open-space land in exchange for a ten or 20-year agreement that the land will not be developed or otherwise converted to another use.
Who can use this service?
Any property owner whose property meets all eligibility requirements may use this service.
Is there a charge for this service?
Please refer to the Department of Planning & Building Fee Schedule for application fees.
What is the process?
Step 1: Schedule Consultation
Potential applicants schedule an informal consultation with staff to ensure that their property meets all applicable eligibility requirements.
Step 3: Establish Agricultural Preserve
The Board of Supervisors adopts an ordinance establishing an agricultural preserve on the property, if one does not already exist.
Step 4: Sign Contract
Staff prepares a land conservation contract, which is then provided to the applicant for signature and notarization.
Step 5: Approve Contract
Staff schedules the land conservation contract on the Board of Supervisors consent agenda, at which time the Board will act on the contract.
When and where is this service offered?
This service is available throughout the year during regular business hours except during scheduled holidays.
Location, directions and hours of operation
Click on location name to show hours of operation, directions and phone information
Old County Courthouse Building
Monday - Friday 8:30 AM - 4:30 PM
976 Osos Street Room 200 San Luis Obispo, CA 93408
Tel: (805) 781-5600
Permits/Inspections: (805) 788-2076
Fax: (805) 781-1242
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to process a contract?
It typically takes 4-6 months to process a land conservation contract.
What is the primary disadvantage of entering into a contract?
The primary disadvantage of entering into a land conservation contract is that the landowner is prohibited from subdividing the property under contract into lots (or selling existing lots) that are smaller than the minimum lot size designated in the contract.
How are contracts terminated?
There are three (3) ways in which a land conservation contract may be terminated:
- Non-Renewal: this is the most common method used to terminate a contract. Once non-renewal is initiated by formal request from either the property owner or the County, the contract expires 10 years after the year in which the non-renewal request was filed. The property taxes will usually increase during this non-renewal period as the taxable value changes from the restricted value back to the unrestricted value. The total conversion in value occurs over the 10-year non-renewal period.
- Cancellation: a property owner may request contract cancellation at any time. The request must be approved by the Board of Supervisors and, if approved, terminates the contract immediately. However, cancellation can be approved only under extraordinary circumstances as provided in the Williamson Act. In addition, there is a one-time penalty for cancellation amounting to 12½% of the current fair market value of the property.
- Public Acquisition: contracts become void for any property that has been purchased through public acquisition by a federal, state, or local government agency for necessary public uses and facilities.
What is the primary advantage of entering into a contract?
The primary advantage for a property owner of entering into a land conservation contract is a potential reduction in property taxes on the property under contract.
What is the term length of a contract?
Land conservation contracts start out with either ten (10) or twenty (20)-year terms, depending on how close the property is located to urban areas. Once a contract has ten (10) years remaining on the term, it is automatically renewed each year so that there are always ten (10) years remaining.