The purposes of the Land Conservation Act (Williamson Act) are to preserve the County’s prime soils and intensive high-value agricultural operations and to discourage premature and unnecessary conversion of agricultural land to urban use. The Act provides tax incentives to protect agricultural and open space uses defined in the Act. Contracts and agreements must be filed with the Planning and Building Department by the first Friday in June. The application, Review and Approval Process, and Public Notification process is described in the Williamson Act Regulations.

Steps in the Planning Permit Process

In reviewing and processing your permit application, the assigned planner will generally complete the following steps:

1. Filing Deadline

There are two contract application forms: A/LCA and FSZA/LCA Contracts, and one form for OSE Agreements. An applicant must submit the appropriate completed application form and other required information before the deadlines set forth in Uniform Rule 3, Section B.1.

Applications to establish, disestablish, alter or expand the boundary of an AGP or an FSZA, and for new contracts and agreements must be filed with the Planning and Building Department by the first Friday in June. The application must include the required fee in accordance with the most recently adopted Fee Schedule. All required information must be received, and all contract area boundaries finalized, by the first Friday in July (or the following Monday if it falls on a holiday) to allow sufficient time to review and process the contracts and agreements before the end of the year. Applications/information received after these deadlines may delay the effective date of the contract. These deadlines may be extended by the Community Development Director upon written request by the applicant showing that circumstances beyond the applicant’s control prevented submittal of the required application materials by the above deadlines.

2. Review and Approval Process

a. Agricultural Advisory Committee: All applications for LCA and FSZA/LCA Contracts and associated AGP or FSZA boundary changes shall be reviewed by the Agricultural Advisory Committee (AAC) prior to the Planning Commission or Board of Supervisors hearing. Applications for OSE Agreements are not reviewed by AAC.

b. Planning Commission: The Planning Commission shall hold a public hearing on proposed amendments to these Rules and proposed AGP/FSZA boundary changes, and make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.

c. Board of Supervisors: The Board of Supervisors shall hold a public hearing on these Rules, proposed AGP/FSZA boundary changes, contracts and agreements, and make a final decision to approve, partially approve, or deny each individual agreement or contract and associated AGP or FSZA boundary changes.

d. Public Notice: The legal notice requirements for entitlements shall apply to both the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisor hearings for the processing of contracts. If the applications include a proposal to establish, disestablish, alter or expand the boundary of an AGP or FSZA, at least a two-week notice of the hearing shall be given to the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) and to every city in the County within one mile of the exterior boundaries of the preserve (Government Code Section 51233).

3. Completion of Contracts

a. Signature of Owners: All persons, corporations, associations, partnerships, or other entities (except public utilities and public entities) having any right, or title or interest of any kind (except easement interest) in or affecting the surface use (extending to two hundred (200) feet below the surface) of the property proposed for a Contract, are required to sign the application as owners. Signatures must be notarized.

b. Recordation of Contracts and Agreements: After the owners and the County have signed the contracts or agreements, the project planner shall cause them, as well as any resolution(s) for associated AGP or FSZA boundary changes, to be recorded in the Office of the County Recorder no later than 20 days after the owners and the County have signed the contracts or agreements.

c. Submission of Information on Contracted Property: Upon the request of the County, each owner shall provide information relating to owner’s obligations under the contract or agreement including, but not limited to, a description of existing and planned land uses, structures or agricultural utilization on the contracted property.

d. Submission of Completed Agricultural Preserve Questionnaire: In addition to complying with the information request described in (c) above, each owner of land under contract shall complete an annual Agricultural Preserve Questionnaire and submit it to the County Assessor by the required deadline. Owners of lands under contract or agreement shall provide any/additional information requested by the County related to the assessment of the property.