Laws, Regulations & Annotations

Property Taxes Law Guide – Revision 2012

Government Code Provisions

Provisions Relating to the California Land Conservation Act of 1965 (The Williamson Act)

Chapter 7. Agricultural Land*

Article 3. Contracts

Section 51255.1

51255.1. Rescission and entry into solar-use easement. (a) Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, the parties may upon their mutual agreement rescind a contract for a parcel or parcels of land that, upon review and approval, are determined by the Department of Conservation to be eligible to be placed into a solar-use easement pursuant to Section 51191, in order to simultaneously enter into a solar-use easement pursuant to Chapter 6.9 (commencing with Section 51190). This action may be taken notwithstanding the prior serving of a notice of nonrenewal.

(b) Nothing in this section limits the ability of the parties to a contract to seek nonrenewal, or petition for cancellation or termination of a contract pursuant to this chapter. This section is provided in addition to, not in replacement of, other methods for contract termination, Williamson Act compliance, or a county finding that a solar facility is a compatible use pursuant to this chapter.

(c) (1) Prior to the board or council agreeing to mutually rescind a contract pursuant to this section, the county assessor of the county in which the land is located shall determine the current fair market value of the land as though it were free of the contractual restriction. The assessor shall certify to the board or council the fair market valuation of the land for the purpose of determining the rescission fee. At the same time, the assessor shall send a notice to the landowner and the Department of Conservation indicating the current fair market value of the land as though it were free of the contractual restriction and advise the parties, that upon their request, the assessor shall provide all information relevant to the valuation, excluding third-party information. If any information is confidential or otherwise protected from release, the department and the landowner shall hold it as confidential and return or destroy any protected information upon termination of all actions relating to valuation or rescission of the contract on the property. The notice shall also advise the landowner and the department of the opportunity to request formal review from the assessor.

(2) Prior to agreeing to mutually rescind a contract pursuant to this section, the board or council shall determine and certify to the county auditor the amount of the rescission fee that the landowner shall pay the county treasurer upon rescission. That fee shall be an amount equal to 6 1/4 percent of the fair market valuation of the property if the land was held under a contract pursuant to Section 51240, and 121/2 percent if the land was held in a contract designating the property as a farmland security zone.

(3) When rescission fees required by this subdivision are collected, they shall be transmitted by the county treasurer to the Controller and deposited in the General Fund, except as provided in subdivision (b) of Section 51203 or subdivision (d) of Section 51283. The funds collected by the county treasurer with respect to each rescission of a contract shall be transmitted to the Controller within 30 days of the execution of the mutual rescission of the contract by the parties.

(4) It is the intent of the Legislature that fees paid to rescind a contract do not constitute taxes but are payments that, when made, provide a private benefit that tends to increase the value of the property.

History.—Added by Stats. 2011, Ch. 596 (SB 618) in effect January 1, 2012.

Note.—Section 1 of Stats. 2011, Ch. 596 (SB 618) provided that the Legislature hereby finds and declares all of the following:

(a) The California Land Conservation Act of 1965 that has become known nationwide as the Williamson Act is critical to the welfare of the people of our state and nation.

(b) The Williamson Act provides a statutory framework for local implementation of California's most effective farm and ranch land preservation program, protecting over 16.5 million acres or nearly one-third of all privately owned land in California.

(c) The long-term conservation of agricultural and open-space land ensures that a steady supply of high-quality, low-cost fresh foods is available to urban residents, provides open-space uses that benefit the public seeking escape from the closeness of urban society, protects watersheds and vast areas of wildlife habitat, and conserves world-class agricultural soils.

(d) On April 12, 2011, Governor Brown signed legislation that requires one-third of the state's electricity to come from renewable sources by December 31, 2020.

(e) In establishing the 33 percent California Renewables Portfolio Standard Program (RPS program), there will be many important benefits to California, including new investment in green technologies in the state, job creation, improvements in local air quality, energy independence, and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

(f) Utility scale photovoltaic electrical energy production is crucial to achieving and hopefully exceeding California's RPS program goals.

(g) Encouraging utility scale photovoltaic energy facilities on marginally productive or physically impaired land by providing expedited termination of Williamson Act contracts, without penalty, will protect the many statewide benefits of the program while providing significant economic incentives for new solar power development.

(h) In adding Section 51255.1 , it is the intent of the Legislature to provide an additional method for terminating a Williamson Act contract, in addition to those methods already authorized by statute, for the purpose of encouraging the development of utility scale solar photovoltaic facilities on marginally productive or physically impaired farmland. It is not intended to be the exclusive method of contract termination, nor of Williamson Act compliance for solar facilities, but merely another option that is consistent with the constitutional limitations of Section 8 of Article XIII of the California Constitution.

* Unless otherwise noted Chapter 7 was added by Stats. 1965, p. 3377, in effect September 17, 1965.