Agricultural Preserve Rules

Agricultural Preserve cattle at Hollister Ranch

PURPOSE OF AGRICULTURAL PRESERVE PROGRAM AND UNIFORM RULES

The Santa Barbara County Uniform Rules for Agricultural Preserves and Farmland Security Zones (hereafter referred to in this document as Uniform Rules or Rules) is the set of rules by which the County administers its Agricultural Preserve Program under the California Land Conservation Act of 1965, better known as the Williamson Act. The purpose of the Williamson Act is the long-term conservation of agricultural and open space lands. The Act establishes a program to enroll land in Williamson Act or Farmland Security Zone contracts whereby the land is enforceably restricted to agricultural, open space, or recreational uses in exchange for reduced property tax assessments. Participation in the program is voluntary by the County and by the eligible Hollister Ranch owners.

The Act requires that each participating local government have a set of uniform rules for administering Williamson Act and Farmland Security Zone contracts within its jurisdiction. The County’s Uniform Rules establish the basic requirements of all contracts and are incorporated as a part of each contract. As a part of every contract, therefore, any change in the County’s Rules applies to every contract currently in effect with the exception of rules specifically applied prospectively and those compatible uses permitted under Section 51238.3 of the Williamson Act. Conservation of agricultural and open space land benefits the general public by discouraging premature conversion of land to urban land uses, thereby curtailing sprawl and promoting logical urban growth and provision of urban services. The Agricultural Preserve Program both protects agriculture and retains open space for its scenic qualities and value as wildlife habitat. Most directly, it contributes to the state’s agricultural economy and the availability of fresh, nutritious, varied and affordable food. To ensure the long-term retention of these benefits, land enrolled in the program is prevented from being readily converted to urban or other non-agricultural uses. This is achieved by the County through conscientious and consistent enforcement of the Uniform Rules and the terms of the contracts, which also maintains the constitutionality of administering preferential property tax assessments for these lands.