Current Land Use Programs
The State of Maine has four "current use" programs which offer the property owner a reduction in their assessed value: Tree Growth, Farm Land, Open Space and Working Waterfront.
All four programs are available to the property owner through an application process with the local municipality. Applications must be filed on or before April 1 st.
Certain criteria must be met for each program in order to be eligible and any future change in the use of the land which would cause disqualification would result in a penalty.
In the farmland program, the property owner is required to have at least 5 contiguous acres in their tract of land. The land must be used for farming, agriculture, horticulture and can include woodland and wasteland. Additionally, the tract must contribute at least $2,000 gross income from farming activities, each year.
The Department of Agriculture prepares a valuation guideline for the municipalities, which results from studies based on suggested values using a correlation from income stream and market data attributable to agricultural enterprise.
If the property no longer qualifies as a farmland tract, then a penalty would be assessed. The penalty is an amount equal to the taxes that would have been paid in the last five years if it had not been in the farmland, less the taxes that were originally assessed, plus any interest on that balance.
See Bulletin 20, Title 36, M.R.S.A., Sections 1101 - 1121.
No minimum acreage requirement with this program! However, minimum areas and setbacks must be excluded from classification.
The tract must be preserved or restricted in use to provide a public benefit. Benefits recognized include public recreation, scenic resources, game management or wildlife habitat.
The municipal assessor is responsible for determining the valuation placed on Open Space land. In the determination of the value of open space land, the assessor must consider the sale price that a particular open space parcel would command in the open market if it were to remain in the particular category or categories of open space land for which it qualifies.
If an assessor is unable to determine the valuation of a parcel of open space land based on the valuation method above, the assessor may use the Alternate Valuation Method. Using this method, the assessor reduces the fair market value of an open space land parcel by the cumulative percentage reduction for which the land is eligible according to certain categories. Those categories are as follows:
- Ordinary Open Space - 20% reduction
- Permanently Protected - 30% reduction
- Forever Wild - 20% reduction
- Public Access - 25% reduction
In other words, if the property met all of the above requirements, the owner would see a cumulative reduction of up to 95% on the classified land.
If the property no longer qualifies as Open Space, then a penalty would be assessed using the same methodology as is used for removal from Tree Growth classification.
See Bulletin 21, Title 36, M.R.S.A., Sections 1101 - 1121.
This program provides for the land owner with at least 10 acres of forested land used for commercial harvesting. A Forest Management and Harvest Plan must be prepared and a sworn statement to that effect submitted with the application. Applications include a map of the parcel indicating the forest type breakdown as well as all other areas not classified as tree growth.
Each year, the State Tax Assessor determines the 100% valuation per acre for each forest type by county and by year. Click on the following link to see the most current rates. For a list of current Tree Growth Rates click here (PDF) / HTML
If the forestland no longer meets the criteria of eligibility or the landowner opts to withdraw from tree growth classification, then a penalty would be determined. Depending upon the length of time that the parcel has been enrolled, the penalty would be an amount between 20 and 30% of the difference between the 100% tree growth value and the fair market value.
See Bulletin 19, Title 36, M.R.S.A., Sections 571 - 584.
"Working waterfront land" means a parcel or portion of a parcel of land abutting tidal waters or is located in the intertidal zone (located between the high and low water mark) the use of which is more than 50% related to providing access to or in support of the conduct of commercial fishing (including commercial aquaculture) activities.
Working waterfront land used predominantly (more than 90%) as working waterfront is eligible for a 20% reduction from just value. Working waterfront land used primarily (more than 50%) as working waterfront is eligible for a 10% reduction from just value. Working waterfront land that is permanently protected from a change in use through deeded restriction is eligible for the aforementioned reduction plus an additional 30% reduction.
If the property no longer qualifies as Working Waterfront, then a penalty would be assessed using the same methodology as is used for removal from Tree Growth classification.
See Working Waterfront Q & A , Title 36, M.R.S.A., Sections 1131 -1140.