Chapter 18.52
OPEN SPACE RATING ORDINANCE

Sections:

18.52.010    Title.

18.52.020    Purpose.

18.52.030    Definitions.

18.52.040    Applicability.

18.52.050    Application.

18.52.060    Administration.

18.52.070    Basic criteria.

18.52.080    Assessed benefit rating and valuation schedule.

18.52.090    Removal from open space classification.

18.52.100    Fees and charges.

18.52.110    Severability.

18.52.010 Title.

This chapter shall be known as the “Cowlitz County Open Space Rating Ordinance.” [Ord. 95-078, § 1, 6-19-95.]

18.52.020 Purpose.

The purposes of this chapter are to:

A. Establish an open space current use assessment program based on land characteristics and public benefit;

B. Identify, restore, preserve and conserve those sites of historical, cultural, ecological and scientific significance, and other open space land as defined in RCW 84.34.020(1) and 84.34.020(8), as currently enacted or hereafter amended;

C. Provide incentives to landowners to conserve current use open space lands for the use and benefit of the public and for production of food and fibre, as provided in Chapter 84.34 RCW;

D. Provide assurance to the general public that any land reclassified under this chapter is and will be managed for the benefit of the public;

E. Provide a means to evaluate each application to ensure a balance of public benefit in exchange for revenue loss or tax shift that occurs with each open space reclassification. [Ord. 95-078, § 2, 6-19-95.]

18.52.030 Definitions.

For the purposes of this chapter the following definitions shall apply.

“Assessor” means the Cowlitz County Assessor.

“Board” means the Board of County Commissioners.

“Commercial agricultural production” means the production of saleable quantities of organic materials produced from natural soil resources.

“Department” means the Cowlitz County Department of Building and Planning.

“Open space farm and agricultural conservation land” means either:

1. Land that was previously classified under RCW 84.34.020(2) (open space farm and agricultural land) that no longer meets the qualifying criteria for that classification; or

2. Traditional farmland that is not classified under Chapter 84.33 or 84.34 RCW that has not been irrevocably devoted to a use inconsistent with agricultural uses, and that has a high potential for returning to commercial agriculture production.

“Open space land” means:

1. Any land designated by a comprehensive land use plan adopted by any city or the county and zoned accordingly; or

2. Any land area, the preservation and conservation of which in its present use would:

a. Protect, conserve and enhance natural or scenic resources and scenic vistas,

b. Protect streams and stream corridors, aquifers and aquifer recharge areas, or water supplies,

c. Promote conservation of soils, wetlands, beaches or tidal marshes,

d. Enhance the value to the public of abutting or neighboring parks, forests, wildlife preserves, nature reservations or sanctuaries or other open space,

e. Enhance public recreational opportunities,

f. Preserve historic sites,

g. Preserve visual quality along highway, road or street corridors,

h. Retain in a natural state tracts of land not less than one acre situated in an urban area and open to public use on such conditions as may be reasonably required by the Board when granting the open space classification, or

i. Protect and conserve soil used for or potentially used for commercial agricultural production.

“Planning Commission” means Cowlitz County Planning Commission.

“Rural” means an area with a planned density not greater than one dwelling per acre.

“Urban” means an area with a planned residential density of more than one residence per acre. [Ord. 95-078, § 3, 6-19-95.]

18.52.040 Applicability.

Any person seeking to re-classify land as open space for current use assessment as defined in RCW 84.34.020(1), 84.34.020(8), and this chapter as now enacted or hereafter amended, shall comply with the provisions of this chapter. Farm and agricultural conservation land classification(s) for properties not used for farming or agricultural use shall be effective for no more than five years, after which time the land must either be returned to commercial farm and agricultural use, or a revised conservation plan submitted for approval pursuant to this chapter. Failure to return the land to commercial farm and agricultural use or submit a revised conservation plan shall result in removal of the land from the current use program. Current use open space classification applies to the land and does not include any structure or land area that comprises the principal place of residence or residential accessory structures of the landowner or employee. [Ord. 95-078, § 4, 6-19-95.]

18.52.050 Application.

A. All application forms for open space reclassification shall be obtained from the Assessor, completed and submitted to the Department of Building and Planning, together with applicable fees for processing.

B. General Open Space. Each application for land reclassification into an open space category defined in CCC 18.52.030 shall include the following:

1. Written statement explaining how the proposed reclassification meets three or more of the criteria for the open space category sought;

2. A land conservation plan showing the measures that will be taken to maintain and protect the current use of the property. The conservation plan shall include:

a. Name, address and daytime telephone number of the owner,

b. The land owner’s goals and objectives for the property,

c. Location of the property,

d. Size of the land area to be reclassified,

e. A site plan map locating all structures, including but not limited to house, barn, outbuildings, well, fields, fences, etc.,

f. An action plan that schedules the actual conservation and management practices that will be used to assure the public that the land will be managed in conformance with this chapter.

C. Open Space Farm and Agricultural Conservation. Each application for open space farm and agricultural conservation land classification as defined in CCC 18.52.030 shall include the following:

1. Written statement explaining how the proposed reclassification meets three or more of the criteria for the open space category sought, and identifying the number of years previously taxed as farm and agricultural land under Chapter 84.34 RCW;

2. Conservation plan including all interim measures that will be followed to protect and manage the land in a manner that allows immediate resumption of commercial agricultural use. Each conservation plan shall contain the following information:

a. Name, address and daytime telephone number of the owner,

b. Location of the land,

c. Size of the land area to be reclassified,

d. Nontechnical soils description and agricultural capability classification as assigned in the soils survey for the county, published by the USDA, Natural Resource Conservation Service (formerly Soil Conservation Service),

e. A copy of the published soils map showing boundaries of the subject land,

f. List of the applicant’s goals and objectives for managing the land,

g. Schedule of measures that are and will be used to accomplish the goals and objectives, and

h. Steps that will be taken to conserve the agricultural soils to allow immediate return to commercial agricultural production. [Ord. 95-078, § 5, 6-19-95.]

18.52.060 Administration.

A. The Director shall administer the provisions of this chapter. The Director may prepare any forms and procedures necessary to administer this chapter.

B. As required by RCW 84.34.037, each application reviewed under this chapter shall be processed in the same manner as an amendment to the Comprehensive Plan as provided in Chapter 36.70 RCW. The Department shall process each application for open space classification as follows:

1. The Department shall assign a file number, review the application, and prepare a report for Planning Commission recommendation at a public hearing for each application. The Department may consult with the Assessor, WSU Cooperative Extension Service, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, or Cowlitz County Soil and Water Conservation District, or other agency regarding any open space reclassification or other current use application.

C. The Department report shall evaluate whether preservation of the current use of land, when balanced against the revenue loss or tax shift that may result from approving the application, will protect and conserve open space lands in conformance with this chapter, and is consistent with the adopted Comprehensive Plan. The Department may recommend conditions to assure conformity with zoning, the Comprehensive Plan, the neighborhood, and other applicable regulations.

D. The Planning Commission, following a public hearing, shall determine if the proposed reclassification conforms to the goals and policies of the Comprehensive Plan and this chapter, and make a recommendation for approval, approval with conditions, or denial to the board. The Planning Commission shall limit reclassification of farm and agricultural conservation land to no more than five years.

E. The Department shall transmit the Planning Commission recommendations to the Board, together with all conditions, findings and supporting documentation no later than 14 days following the Planning Commission decision.

F. The Board shall review each application at a regular meeting. The Board may by motion approve, approve with conditions, or deny an application as recommended by the Commission without holding a public hearing. If the board does not concur with the recommendation of the Planning Commission, the Board shall hold a public hearing, following notification and publication in a newspaper of general circulation at least 10 days prior to the hearing. Following such public hearing, the Board shall make a determination to approve the application, approve the application with conditions, or deny the application.

1. The determination and findings of the Board shall be made available to the public for review upon request.

2. The Clerk of the Board shall by regular mail send any current use assessment contract to the landowner in conformance with Chapter 84.34 RCW.

3. The landowner shall sign and return the contract within 25 days from the date of mailing, or all approvals for current use assessment reclassification shall become null and void.

4. The Assessor shall monitor the contract to determine compliance for the duration of the open

space classification in conformance with Chapter 84.34 RCW. [Ord. 95-078, § 6, 6-19-95.]

18.52.070 Basic criteria.

Applications for open space current use assessment reclassification will be evaluated and determined in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 84.34 RCW and this chapter. To qualify for a reclassification category, each applicant shall demonstrate that reclassification of the land meets three or more of the rating criteria shown in Tables 1 and 2 for each open space conservation and preservation category sought. Applicants are encouraged to apply for more than one open space conservation and preservation category to achieve a higher open space public benefits rating score.

Table 1 – Open Space Categories and Qualifying Criteria

Land is designated as open space in a comprehensive land use plan and zoned open space by the local government

Protect, conserve and enhance natural or scenic resources

Protect streams or water supply, including stream corridors, aquifers and aquifer recharge areas

Promote conservation of soils, wetlands, beaches, tidal marshes, or natural shorelines

Enhance value to the public of abutting or neighboring parks, forests, wildlife preserves, nature reservations or sanctuaries, or other open space, and enhance public recreational opportunities

Promote conservation of unique or critical wildlife and/or native plant habitat

Land preserved in its natural state provides a greenway buffer along a river or stream.

o

Land is identified as rural residential or forestry open space in the County Comprehensive Plan.

o

All or a majority of the land provides flood storage during a regulatory flood.

o

Land is identified as rural residential, agricultural, or open space in the County Comprehensive Plan.

o

Land is located in areas designated in the Cowlitz County Comprehensive Park and Recreation Plan planned for additional recreational opportunities.

o

Land if preserved in its natural state protects a critical area identified and approved under the Cowlitz County critical areas ordinance.

o

Land preserved in its natural state prevents encroachment of urban development into commercial forest and agricultural areas.

o

Land is located adjacent to a scenic highway or scenic vista with an unrestricted view of the property and beyond.

o

Land abuts a stream or river where, if land use alterations occur, damage from runoff, siltation, infiltration, or other development actions can jeopardize surface or ground water quality.

o

Preservation of the natural area protects beaches and natural shoreline area.

o

Land is contiguous to an existing public park, commercial forest, wildlife preserve, nature reservation or sanctuary, interpretive center or visitor’s center.

o

Land if preserved in its natural state provides a buffer for a regulated wetland with an open water component, and provides plant and wildlife habitat.

o

Land preserved in its natural state or current use prevents the spread of urban density development into designated rural areas.

o

Land if preserved in its current use provides unrestricted view of open space timber or agricultural fields and seasonal farm activities.

o

Land is characterized with a high water table and rapidly draining soils.

o

The site provides unique opportunities to observe, study and preserve specific natural or manmade wetland management areas.

o

Land provides a buffer between between development and adjacent high use recreation areas, such as a municipal park or golf course.

o

A wildlife habitat management plan has been prepared by a qualified expert.

o

Land preserved in its natural state or current use protects identified or delineated critical areas as defined in the Cowlitz County critical areas protection ordinance.

o

Land provides unrestricted view of river, lake, hydropower reservoir, or classified and designated wetland area.

o

Land provides unique opportunities to study and conserve natural areas for floodplain management.

o

Preservation of the current use promotes identifiable conservation principles and wildlife habitat management.

o

Land preserved provides low intensity public recreational opportunities for nonmotorized access, picnicking, and tent camping.

o

Land is located in a big game migration corridor and provides essential wildlife habitat.

o

Land is located within a designated geologic hazard area delineated pursuant to the Cowlitz County critical areas ordinance.

o

Land currently provides habitat for unique or critical wildlife or native plants.

o

 

A college or public school has contracted to use the land for promotion of land conservation principles, and the curriculum has been approved by the contracted school.

o

Reclassification of the land provides public access to an area suitable for providing a protective buffer for adjacent wetland, riparian vegetation, wildlife habitat.

o

 

Other:

Other:

Other:

Other:

Other:

Other:

Limited public access is provided

Limited public access is provided

Public access is provided

Limited public access is provided

Public access is provided

Limited public access is provided

Column total:

Column total:

Column total:

Column total:

Column total:

Column total:

Scoring: One (1) point for each benefit criteria met in a column. A minimum three (3) points necessary to qualify for an open space category. Public access counts only once, and is applicable to no more than one category.

ATTENTION: Applicant must provide a management plan identifying the measures that will be taken to ensure the continuation of the current use of the land.

Table 2 – Open Space Categories and Qualifying Criteria

Preserve historic sites

Retain as natural area, one acre or larger tract in urban areas, if available for public use

Protect traditional farm and agricultural land and soils from irrevocable conversion to nonagricultural uses, and maintain the land in a condition that allows immediate resumption of commercial farm and agricultural uses

Protect traditional or unique farm and agricultural land and soils from irrevocable conversion to nonagricultural uses, and maintain the land in a condition that allows immediate resumption of a commercial farm and agricultural uses

(Category 1 or Category 2 – Five acres and larger tracts*)

Land is listed on the State and/or National Historic Register.

o

Protection and preservation of the current land use provides passive recreational uses such as bird watching, nature trails, and observation of other natural wildlife habitat in urban areas.

o

Farm and agricultural conservation land are less than five acres in size, but more than two acres.

o

There are no sanitary sewer services adjacent to the land, and the property is not within an adopted sewer service area plan.

o

Land is part of an ongoing archaeological study area.

o

Use of the land is open to public, with no exclusions on the basis of membership.

o

Land is designated in the Cowlitz County Comprehensive Plan as agriculture, rural residential RR-1, RR-2, or forestry/open space, or is zoned AG, AG-38, RR-1, RR-2, or forestry recreation.

o

Land and soils are mapped and defined by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service as Class 1, 2, 3, 4, and/or 5; and the land is located outside the boundaries of any urban area identified in the Cowlitz County Comprehensive Plan, or outside any urban growth management area approved by the Board and city.

o

Land and/or building is listed on the county historical inventory.

o

Preservation of the land provides a unique opportunity for wetland management, floodplain management, and/or wildlife management in an urban setting.

o

Land and soils are mapped and defined by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service as Class 1, 2, or 3.

o

Land has a documented history of commercial agricultural production, and has potential for returning to commercial agricultural production at any time.

o

Land has historic significance to the Cowlitz County Museum, Cowlitz Indian Tribe, or Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs.

o

 

The site has been classified as commercial farm and agriculture land as defined in RCW 84.34.020(2) for five or more years.

o

The site contains more than five acres capable for return to commercial agricultural production.

o

Other:

Other:

Other:

Other:

Limited public access is allowed.

 

No public access is provided.

No public access is provided.

Column total:

Column total:

Column total:

Column total:

*Applicant must provide a conservation/management plan identifying the measures that will be taken to ensure the continuation of the current use of the land. Agricultural conservation plans must also provide for the immediate resumption of commercial farm and agricultural use.

Scoring: One (1) point for each benefit criteria met in a column. A minimum three (3) points necessary to qualify for an open space category. Public access counts only once, and is applicable to no more than one category.

[Ord. 95-078, § 7, 6-19-95.]

18.52.080 Assessed benefit rating and valuation schedule.

An owner’s assessed valuation for land reclassified as open space shall be reduced according to the schedule listed in Table 3.

Table 3

Public Benefit Rating

Assessed Value

Reduction Benefits

1 – 2 points

Ineligible for open

space classification

3 points

30%

4 points

40%

5 points

50%

6 points

60%

7 points

70%

8 points

80%

9 or more points

90%

[Ord. 95-078, § 8a, 6-19-95.]

18.52.090 Removal from open space classification.

Any land not managed in conformance with the conditions of approval, and with the approved conservation plan and contract, shall be removed from classification as open space for current use assessment by the Assessor, and all compensating taxes shall become due. In order to requalify for an open space classification the landowner shall be required to reapply pursuant to this chapter. [Ord. 95-078, § 8b, 6-19-95.]

18.52.100 Fees and charges.

Fees and charges for processing an application under this ordinance shall be as from time to time adopted by resolution of the Board. Such fees shall be nonrefundable. [Ord. 95-078, § 9, 6-19-95.]

18.52.110 Severability.

If any section, subsection, or other portion of this chapter is for any reason held invalid or unconstitutional by a court of competent jurisdiction, such section, subsection, or portion thereof shall be deemed a separate provision of this chapter and such holding shall not affect the validity of the remaining portion of this chapter. [Ord. 95-078, § 10, 6-19-95.]