WATERVILLE — If you’re looking to get a property tax break by classifying your Douglas County land as open space, your land will now be judged to see just how much benefit it would provide the public.
Douglas County commissioners on Tuesday adopted a new rating system to be used when determining how much of a tax reduction to place on open space.
Assessor Jim Ruud said people who put their land in open space used to pay taxes on 40 percent of their assessed value, regardless of whether the open space was wetlands or pasture, or whether it was open to the public or not.
The new system gives landowners points for putting specific kinds of land in open space, and more points for public access. It offers reduced taxes based on those points.
Those who put land in a conservation easement may pay taxes on only 25 percent of assessed market value, while those with just a couple of benefits — such as public access to privately owned shorelines within an urban growth area — may pay taxes on 85 percent of their assessed market value.
“It defines what will qualify, and has a rating system to decide how big of a tax break you’re going to get,” said Commissioner Dale Snyder. “It gives a person the opportunity to assess the criteria. They can assess whether it’s worth it or not,” he added.
Ruud said there’s not a lot of interest in putting property in open space, largely because of the penalties if the land is later taken out.
He said there are between 30 and 40 parcels countywide classified as open space.
“It does put restrictions on your land, and if you go to sell it, there are tax consequences if the buyer doesn’t continue in the program,” he said.
Those consequences include paying back the unpaid taxes for the last seven years, plus interest and penalties.
The plan was first heard through the Douglas County Planning Commission. Commissioners adopted it after a public hearing on Tuesday.
The rating system can be seen by visiting DouglasCountyWA.net and clicking on Current Projects and then Open Space Rating Plan.