BURRILLVILLE – A statewide program that aims to ensure land is conserved for open space and farming has been a success for both property owners and environmentalists in Burrillville, where hundreds of acres have been protected over the last two years with the help of tax incentives.
Rhode Island’s Farm, Forest and Open Space Act applies to properties of ten or more acres and is an optional program towns can offer to residents, with participation renewed annually.
“Local farms ensure a readily available source of food close to metropolitan areas, while forestland and open space are key natural resources that provide recreational areas and contribute to the welfare and happiness of the state’s inhabitants,” explains Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s Citizen’s Guide to the program. “Because of the economic pressures to convert these lands to development or another more profitable land use, Rhode Island’s farms, forests, and open spaces are rapidly disappearing.”
The law allows property owners to have the value of their land assessed at its current use, not its value for development.
“Typically, excess acreage is valued at approximately $3,200 per acre and if they qualify for the Open Space program the value of each excess acre would decrease to $750 per acre,” explained Burrillville Tax Assessor Jennifer Mooney.
Land is classified as farmland, forestland or open space under the program, and participants must follow the applicable guidelines for conservation. If the property is sold, new owner can choose to continue the classification or withdraw from the program, but will see the taxes on the land increase.
In Burrillville, three new properties were enrolled in the program in 2017, covering a total of 35.7 acres.
So far in 2018, four new parcels have been added to the list, including 32 acres on Whipple Road; 14 on Stone Barn Road; 15 on East Wallum Lake; and 20.5 on Mowry Street, for a total of 81.5 acres.
“The purpose of the law is not to reduce property taxes, but to conserve Rhode Island’s productive agricultural and forest land by reducing the chance it will have to be sold for development,” noted the RIDEM guide.
Burrillville residents can apply to take part in the program at the tax assessor’s office.
“The Farm, Forest, and Open Space Act helps citizens conserve these lands for themselves and for future generations,” notes the guide.