2008 Florida Greenbelt Legislation

05/02/2008

No significant proposals for changes to the Agricultural Classification/Greenbelt statute (FS 193.461) appeared through the entire Legislative session, until the middle of the last week.  A change was quietly and with little attention added to H909 and passed on the last day of the session.  For the most part, the bill covered other unrelated property tax issues.

In FS 193.461(3)(b)1, the word “utilized” was changed to “used,” and is of no apparent significance. 

In FS 193.461(3)(b)4, which covers criteria for qualification for Agricultural Classification, to “Size, as it relates to specific agricultural use,” the bill added “...but in no event shall a minimum acreage be required for agricultural assessment.”  Interpretation of this change may be interesting.  Size is still one of the criteria; so what is the effect of the change?  A minimum required acreage apparently cannot now be the sole criteria for rejection of the Greenbelt application.  Most of the County Property Appraisers have adopted local guidelines or standards for Greenbelt, including acreage minimums.  Many of these guidelines, and the Silvicultural Greenbelt Guidelines recently released by the Florida Forestry Association, also contain language providing for variance from the minimums.  Will the statutory change eliminate minimum acreages from the local guidelines?  Perhaps not, if the variance language is still included and the minimums are only “guidelines.” 

Although size is generally interpreted as acreage, the original statutory language says nothing about “acreage.”  The authors of the original language likely intended size to mean both size in acreage and size of the operation.  This was also my working interpretation of the size criteria during the 21 years I worked with the Florida Department of Revenue.  For example, a 400-acre parcel of range pasture would certainly present no issue with acreage size.  If the owner had only 2 cows on it, the County Property Appraiser would likely have an issue with size of the operation.  Although proposed in the early 1970s, the State never attempted development of guidelines for acreage minimums because the statute did not appear to provide the authority and the very large number of “specific” agricultural uses existing in Florida at the time. 




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