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Update on Bills Regarding Land Use Value Taxation, Assessment of Wetlands

HB 871 (Orrock) is the result of discussions over several years between the Rappahannock River Basin Commission and the Virginia Department of Forestry, along with the Virginia Farm Bureau, and makes several changes to the statutes governing land use value taxation.  It provides that the definition of “land devoted to agricultural use” includes land used for the sale of products made from plants and animals located on the property (the current definition includes land used for the sale of the plants and animals themselves); it makes a similar change regarding the definition of “land devoted to horticultural use.”  It provides that land designated for use value assessment would not lose this designation because of its location in a newly-created zoning district that was not requested by the property owner.  It also provides that if uniform standards developed by the Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services for eligibility for real estate devoted to agricultural or horticultural use require a minimum length of time of a specified use, then the use of similar property by a lessee of the owner must be included in calculating the time of use.  The Commissioner must also include in the uniform standards a shorter minimum length of time for real estate to qualify for use value assessment if the owner submits a statement of intent regarding use of the real estate containing elements of the uniform standards.  As introduced, the bill would have provided for revalidation every two to six years; representatives of the Commissioners of the Revenue worked to amend the language to allow for revalidation at least every six years (currently, localities may require annual revalidation).

HB 1442 (Orrock), as introduced, would have required the commissioner of the revenue to separately and specially assess wetlands when requested by the property owner, and to use the National Wetlands Inventory Map or other similar federal or state map if he or she disagrees as to the presence of wetlands.  Under current law, the commissioner must only consider assessing wetlands separately and specially upon request, and must consider such maps if he or she disagrees with the owner.  After concern was expressed that the bill might require commissioners to undertake time-consuming site visits to assess wetlands, the bill was amended to remove the requirement to make a separate assessment and now simply requires the commissioner to recognize a particular type of wetland delineation map provided by the property owner.

VACo Contact: Katie Boyle

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