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Updates on Processes for Classification of Chapter Land

Updated: Oct 27, 2023

Long-time readers of our newsletter will be well-versed in the intricacies of the reduction of real property tax assessments for certain land. G.L. c. 61, §§ 1-8 applies to forest land, G.L. c. 61A, §§1-24 applies to agricultural and horticultural land, and G.L. c. 61B, §§ 1-18 applies to recreational land. Generally, and over-simplifying, landowners of at least 10 acres (for forest land) or 5 acres (for agricultural, horticultural, and recreational land) may apply to the assessors for classification at a lower tax rate than would otherwise apply. Sections 90-100 of Chapter 268 of the Acts of 2022 amended some deadlines for action to obtain such classification.

Forest Land: Sections 90-91 amend G.L. c. 61, § 2. Classification of forest land is renewed every 10 years. Per Ch. 268, the owner of forest land now has until December 1 (extended from October 1) to submit to the assessor's evidence of certification of the land by the state forester with the approved management plan. The assessors may appeal the certification to the state forester on or before February 1, extended from December 1. Either party aggrieved by the decision of the state forester may appeal on or before June 15, extended from April 15. The state forester then has 30 days after receipt of the appeal to convene a panel to hear the appeal.

Agricultural and Horticultural Land: Sections 92-95 amend G.L. c. 61A, §§ 6, 7,8, and 14. Classification of agricultural or horticultural land must be renewed annually. The annual deadline to apply is now December 1 (extended from October 1). A change of use that occurs between December 1 and June 30 of the year preceding the tax year will cause the application to be disallowed or nullified. Applications for abatement will be timely if filed with the assessors by February 1.

Recreational Land: Sections 96-100 amend G.L. c. 61B, §§ 3-6, 9. Classification of recreational land must be renewed annually. As with agricultural and horticultural land, owners now have until December 1 to apply to the assessors for classification as recreational land. The application will be denied if there is a change of use between December 1 and June 30 of the year preceding the tax year. Applications for abatement are timely if filed with the assessors by February 1. Failure of the assessors to act on the application for abatement within 3 months of the filing shall be deemed an allowance of the application.

Enrollment as chapter land confers upon the municipality a first refusal option that is triggered if the land is sold for, or converted to, a non-qualifying use while the land is enrolled in the program or within one year of withdrawal from the program. Ch. 268 of the Acts of 2022 did not make any substantive changes to this option.



Processes for Classification of Chapter Land



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