The term “Greenbelt” refers to Tennessee’s Agricultural, Forest, and Open Space Land Act of 1976, (commonly referred to as the “Greenbelt Law” or “Greenbelt Program”). This law provides for the assessment of agriculture, forest, and open space lands for tax purposes based on present use value rather than current market value for similar properties.
The present use value is determined by the Comptroller’s Division of Property Assessments using a statutory formula that blends farm income and market data.
The Greenbelt Program was designed to:
- Encourage continued production of valuable food and fiber:
- Prevent loss of family farms due to higher taxes based on speculation rather than use values;
- Provide relief from urban sprawl and provide green spaces for enjoyment of people who would not normally have access to such areas.
There are 3 types of land eligible for enrollment under the Greenbelt Program:
1. Agricultural Land 2. Forest Land 3. Open Space Land
Greenbelt Application Procedure
- Application must be made by March 1 of the year which Greenbelt classification is sought.
- New owners of property currently in Greenbelt must reapply.
- Fill out an application for Forest or Agriculture, which you can get at the Assessors office. Note: application must be notarized when signed by you.
- Submit application to the Assessors office for review and leave your contact information.
- Parcel will be physically reviewed and you will be contacted.
- Upon application acceptance, you will need to have the application recorded with the Register of Deeds, for which there is a fee.
Agricultural Land Requirements for Greenbelt Consideration
- A parcel must have at least fifteen (15) acres, including woodlands and wastelands which form a contiguous part thereof, constituting a farm unit engaged in the production or growing of crops, plants, animals, nursery, or floral products. A ten (10) acre noncontiguous parcel can qualify if the same owner has already qualified a fifteen (15) acre parcel and both parcels constitute a farm unit.
- A parcel must actually be engaged in agricultural activity. “Planning on farming” the parcel will not qualify.
- The law creates a presumption of farm use if the property produces a minimum average annual gross farm income of $1,500 per year, over any three consecutive years the property is in greenbelt, but the presumption is arguable if there is evidence that the property is or is not being farmed, regardless of the actual or claimed income.
Property can also qualify for Greenbelt Agricultural land, under the Family Farm Provision, if:
- The owner, owner’s spouse , or owner’s parents farmed the property for at least 25 years and
- The owner continues to live on the property and
- The property is not currently used for any purpose that is inconsistent with farming. Note: The farming income / activity rule does not apply.
Forest Land Requirements for Greenbelt Consideration The Parcel must:
- Be at minimum of 15 acres.
- Be engaged in growing trees under a sound program of sustained yield management or have tree growth in such quantity and quality as to be managed like a forest.
- Have a forestry management plan completed by a Certified Forester.
- Have a copy of the Forest plan submitted to the Assessors office for review. The Forest plan will remain on file in the Assessors office.
- Adhere to the guidelines/recommendations of the Forest Plan.
- Be reviewed in the future, by the Assessors office, to confirm adherence to Forest Plan guidelines/recommendations.
Open Space Land requirements for Greenbelt Consideration
The parcel must:
- Be a minimum of 3 acres.
- Be maintained in an open or natural condition for public use and enjoyment.
- Be included within a plan for preservation approved by state or local planning agencies or
- Owner must execute a perpetual open space easement.
Greenbelt Program General Limitations
- Law limits the amount of land eligible for enrollment to 1500 acres per owner per county.
- Individuals who own property with others or as part of a corporation are credited with their proportionate share of the acreage towards the 1500 acre cap.
- All property enrolled in program is subject to “rollback”, when it no longer qualifies for Greenbelt status. (see rollback assessment)
A rollback assessment is:
- Repayment of the taxes saved while the land was classified as greenbelt
- A recapture period of 3 years for Agricultural and Forest Land, and 5 years for Open Space Land
- Payable from the date the Assessor provides the owner with written notice, but is not delinquent until 1 March of the following year.
- Not a penalty. It is repayment of the savings enjoyed for the previous 3 years.
Reasons for a Rollback Assessment
- Parcel size or use no longer qualifies for Greenbelt.
- Owner requests in writing that the classification be withdrawn.
- The property is being developed by means of a recorded subdivision plat or unrecorded plan of development.
- The property has been sold and is being converted to a use other than Greenbelt.