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BILL AS PASSED HOUSE AND SENATE 2007-2008

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S.311

AN ACT RELATING TO THE USE VALUE APPRAISAL PROGRAM

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1.  FINDINGS; INTENT

(a)  The general assembly finds that the use value appraisal program:

(1)  Continues to achieve the goals of the program although the goal of protecting natural ecological systems could be better met by amending the 20‑percent rule to allow for more flexibility in the enrollment of ecological areas, such as rare or exemplary natural communities, riparian buffers, wetlands, vernal pools, and significant wildlife habitat;

(2)  Needs electronic coordination;

(3)  Appears to need appropriate staff increases at the division of property valuation and review and at the department of forests, parks and recreation;

(4)  Needs administrative streamlining;

(5)  Should provide consistent oversight between the agricultural and forest land programs;

(6)  Should generate more funding for sufficient administration of the program;

(7)  Has serious misperceptions about it in the minds of the general public, listers, potentially eligible landowners, enrolled landowners, attorneys, and realtors that the state must lead an educational effort to correct.

(b)  Therefore, the general assembly intends that this act will improve this successful program.

* * * New Application at Time of Transfer of Ownership and Increase of the Application Fee * * *

Sec. 2.  32 V.S.A. § 3756(e) is amended to read:

(e)  Once a use value appraisal has been applied for and granted under this section, such appraisal shall remain in effect for subsequent tax years pursuant to the provisions of subsection (f) of this section, and until the property concerned is transferred to another owner or is no longer eligible under provisions of section 3752 or 3755 of this chapter, or due to a change of use or as otherwise provided in section 3757 of this chapter.  If enrolled property is transferred to another owner, the new owner shall be entitled to continue to have the eligible property appraised at its use value, provided the property remains eligible and provided the new owner shall elect the continuation of use value appraisal on the property transfer tax return at the time of transfer and, within 30 days after the property transfer tax return is has been received by the municipality for recording, has applied to the director and paid the fees described in this subsection.  The grant of use value appraisals of agricultural forest land and farm buildings shall be recorded in the land records of the municipality by the clerk of the municipality.  The department of taxes may collect from applicants Applications shall include the fees specified in subdivision 1671(a)(6) or subsection 1671(c) of this title, and a fee of $30.00 for deposit in a special fund established and managed pursuant to subchapter 5 of chapter 7 of this title, and which.  The fund shall be available as payment for the fees of the clerk of the municipality and for the improvement of the management of the program.

Sec. 3.  32 V.S.A. § 3757(e)(3) is amended to read:

(3)  of any transfer of ownership.  A transfer of ownership, alone, will not affect eligibility of the parcel, and no new maps will be required solely because of a transfer, but failure to provide maps, a new application, or transfer information to the division of property valuation and review within 30 days of a request being sent by certified mail by the director will result in removal of the parcel from the program.

Sec. 4.  PROPERTY TRANSFER TAX RETURN

The commissioner of taxes shall amend the property transfer tax return to include an election to continue eligible property in the use value appraisal program at the time of transfer to a new owner, as allowed under 32 V.S.A. § 3756(e).


* * * Increase Time and Flexibility to Inspect Forest Parcels * * *

Sec. 5.  32 V.S.A. § 3755(b)(3) and (c) are amended to read:

(3)  there has not been filed with the director an adverse inspection report by the department stating that the management of the tract is contrary to the forest or conservation management plan, or contrary to the minimum acceptable standards for forest or conservation management.  The management activity report of conformance with any management plan shall be on a form prescribed by the commissioner of forests, parks and recreation in consultation with the commissioner of taxes and shall include a detachable section signed by all the owners that shall contain the federal tax identification numbers of all the owners.  The section containing federal tax identification numbers shall not be made available to the general public, but shall be forwarded to the commissioner of taxes within 30 days after receipt and used for tax administration purposes.  If any owner shall satisfy the department that he or she was prevented by accident, mistake or misfortune from filing a management plan which is required to be filed on or before October 1 or an annual conformance a management activity report which is required to be filed on or before February 1 of the year following the year when the management activity occurred, the department may receive that management plan or annual conformance management activity report at a later date; provided, however, no management plan shall be received later than December 31 and no annual conformance management activity report shall be received later than March 1.

(c)  At intervals not to exceed five years, the The department of forests, parks and recreation shall audit periodically review the management plans and each year review the conformance management activity reports for each parcel of managed forest land qualified for use value appraisal.  Likewise, at that have been filed.  At intervals not to exceed five ten years, that department shall inspect each tract parcel of managed forest land qualified for use value appraisal to verify that the terms of the management plan have been carried out in a timely fashion.  If that department finds that the management of the tract is contrary to the conservation or forest management plan, or contrary to the minimum acceptable standards for conservation or forest management, it shall file with the owner, the assessing officials and the director an adverse inspection report within 30 days of the inspection.

Sec. 6.  32 V.S.A. § 3756(i) is amended to read:

(i)  The director shall remove from use value appraisal an entire parcel of managed forest land and notify the owner in accordance with the procedure in subsection (b) of this section when the department of forests, parks and recreation has not received a conformance management activity report or has received an adverse inspection report, unless the lack of conformance consists solely of the failure to make prescribed planned cutting.  In that case, the director may delay removal from use value appraisal for a period of one year at a time to allow time to bring the parcel into conformance with the plan.

* * * Allow for Management of Ecological Areas * * *

Sec. 7.  COMMISSIONER OF FORESTS, PARKS AND RECREATION

The commissioner of forests, parks and recreation shall amend the minimum standards of forest management to expand the eligibility of Site 4 land and to identify certain ecologically sensitive areas that will be allowed to be managed for other purposes than timber production, as follows:

(1)  A parcel may be eligible if no more than 20 percent of the acres to be enrolled are Site 4, plus open and not to be restocked within two years, plus ecologically significant areas designated by the department.  These acres need not be managed for timber production.

(2)  The commissioner, in partnership with the Vermont nongame and natural heritage program, should take note of and consider criteria developed by the American Tree Farm System and the Forest Stewardship Council in addition to the criteria submitted in testimony for determining ecologically sensitive areas.  The public shall be given an opportunity to comment on the amended standards.

(3)  If more than 20 percent of the acres to be enrolled are Site 4, plus open not to be restocked, plus ecologically significant not to be managed for timber production, landowners may apply to the commissioner for approval.  The plans and maps shall be reviewed by the county foresters of the county where the parcel is located.  In no situation shall a parcel be approved that does not provide for at least 80 percent of the land classified as Site 1, 2, or 3 to be managed for timber production. 

(4)  The amended standards shall be in effect on or before April 15, 2009.

(5)  The commissioner shall report to the house and senate committees on natural resources and energy and the house committees on fish, wildlife and water resources and agriculture on the changes in the standards on or before January 15, 2009.

* * * Flexibility in Updating Use Value on Town Grand List * * *

Sec. 8.  32 V.S.A. § 4111(e) and (g) are amended to read:

(e)  When the listers return the grand list book to the town clerk, they shall notify by first class mail, on which postage has been prepaid and which has been addressed to their last known address, all affected persons, listed as property owners in the grand list book of any change in the appraised value of such property or any change in the allocation of value to the homestead as defined under subdivision 5401(7) of this title or the housesite as defined under subdivision 6061(11) of this title, and also notify them of the amount of such change and of the time and place fixed in the public notice hereinafter provided for, when persons aggrieved may be heard.  No notice shall be required for a change solely to reflect a new use value set by the current use advisory board or the adjustment of that value by the common level of appraisal.  Notices shall be mailed at least 14 days before the time fixed for hearing.  Such personal notices shall be given in all towns and cities within the state, anything in the charter of any city to the contrary notwithstanding.  At the same time, the listers shall post notices in the town clerk’s office and in at least four other public places in the town or in the case of a city, in such other manner and places as the city charter shall provide, setting forth that they have completed and filed such book as an abstract and the time and place of the meeting for hearing grievances and making corrections.  Unless the personal notices required hereby were sent by registered or certified mail, or unless an official certificate of mailing of the same was obtained from the post office, in the case of any controversy subsequently arising it shall be presumed that the personal notices were not mailed as required.

(g)  A person who feels aggrieved by the action of the listers and desires to be heard by them, shall, on or before the day of the grievance meeting, file with them his or her objections in writing and may appear at such grievance meeting in person or by his or her agents or attorneys.  No grievance shall be allowed for a change solely to reflect a new use value set by the current use advisory board or the adjustment of that value by the common level of appraisal.  Upon the hearing of such grievance, the parties thereto may submit such documentary or sworn evidence as shall be pertinent thereto.

* * * Municipalities Allowed to Enroll Land in Other Municipalities * * *

Sec. 9.  32 V.S.A. § 3752(10) is amended to read:

(10)  “Owner” means the person who is the owner of record of any land, provided that a municipality shall not be an owner for purposes of this subchapter.  When enrolled land is mortgaged, the mortgagor shall be deemed the owner of the land for the purposes of this subchapter, until the mortgagee takes possession, either by voluntary act of the mortgagor or foreclosure, after which the mortgagee shall be deemed the owner.

Sec. 10.  32 V.S.A. § 3760(a) is amended to read:

(a)(1)  Annually the state shall pay to each town municipality the amount necessary to limit its tax rate increase in the prior year due to the loss of municipal property tax revenue for that year based on use value of enrolled property as compared to municipal property tax revenue for that year based on fair market value of enrolled property, to zero.

(2)  The director of property valuation and review shall determine the amount of the available funds under this section to be paid to each town municipality, and a town municipality may appeal the director's decision in the same manner and under the same procedures as an appeal from a decision of a board of civil authority, as set forth in subchapter 2 of chapter 131 of this title.

(3)  On November 1 of each year, the director of property valuation and review shall pay to each municipality the amount calculated as described in this section.  If the appropriation for the year is insufficient to pay the full amount due to every town municipality under this subsection, payments in that year shall be made to such towns proportionately.

(4)  If the appropriation for the year is insufficient to pay the full amount due to any municipality for enrolled property owned by another municipality, the municipality in which the property is located may assess the other municipality and the other municipality shall pay the difference.

(5)  The director's calculation of payment amounts to municipalities shall be based on grand list values and total tax appropriations as submitted to the director for the prior year.

Sec. 11.  ELECTRONIC COORDINATION PROJECT AND REPORT

The department of information and innovation in collaboration with the division of property valuation and review, the agency of natural resources, and the agency of agriculture, food and markets, the Vermont Assessors and Listers Association, and the Vermont League of Cities and Towns shall continue in the effort to bring electronic coordination to the use value appraisal program.  No later than January 15, 2009, the department shall submit a report on this project to the house committees on ways and means and on fish, wildlife and water resources and the senate committees on finance and on natural resources and energy.  The report shall address the recommendations on administrative matters of the use value appraisal task force and include a proposed budget and time frame for the different parts of the project to implement electronic coordination by July 1, 2010.  The report shall document consistent, useful, and verifiable information on what the project will consist of and the costs involved.  The report shall determine what additional funds are needed to accomplish the appropriate levels of program coordination by July 1, 2010.  The report shall analyze different funding options, including a one-time or time-limited administrative fee based on a per-parcel, per-acre, or other basis and make a recommendation on how to fund the proposed budget for coordination.  The report shall also analyze the historical use of the free opt‑out when the program is changed by the legislature.

Sec. 12.  OUTREACH AND EDUCATION ABOUT THE PROGRAM

(a)  The department of forests, parks and recreation, the division of property valuation and review, the agency of agriculture, food and markets, and the current use advisory board shall consult with the Vermont Assessors and Listers Association, the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, the Vermont Use Value Appraisal Coalition, the Vermont Farm Bureau, the Vermont Land Trust, the Vermont Forest Products Association, Rural Vermont, the Vermont Natural Resources Council, and other stakeholders to:`

(1)  develop an outreach and education program to address possible misperceptions about the program identified by the use value appraisal task force in its report.  The program shall be comprehensive and shall outline a strategy to communicate with the general public, listers, potentially eligible landowners, enrolled landowners, attorneys, and realtors.

(2)  include a plan to address the areas of further investigation identified by the task force, including:

(A)  the program definitions of “agricultural land” and “farmer”, including whether the definitions should enable the enrollment of the farm buildings of animal and crop operations that do not qualify for the program under the existing definitions;

(B)  whether there should be different valuations of land based on the kind of use or restrictions on the use of the land, including hunting, fishing, other recreational activities and posting;

(C)  use of the Geographic Information System in the program;

(D)  review of the results of the amendment to the 20-percent rule;

(E)  whether conserved parcels managed for ecological purposes should be enrolled in the program;

(F)  ongoing monitoring of the program.

(b)  The group shall submit a detailed report on its efforts on or before January 15, 2009 to the house committees on fish, wildlife and water resources and on agriculture and the senate committees on natural resources and energy and on agriculture.

Sec. 13.  EFFECTIVE DATE

This act shall take effect upon passage except for Sec. 8, which shall apply to grand lists of April 1, 2009 and after.



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us