Land Use Deferral Program
The City of Lynchburg supports the preservation of real estate devoted to agricultural, horticultural, and forest spaces by allowing eligible and qualified property owners to apply to the City Assessor for tax deferrals. The deferrals are effective starting on July 1st for the following tax year on the basis of the land's agricultural, horticultural, and forest use.
Who Can Apply
The person(s) in whose name the eligible property is titled or a lessee of that property who is legally obligated to pay real estate taxes assessed against the property.
The Lynchburg City Code Section 18-51.1 states that in order to be considered for the Land Use Deferral Program, a property (or portion thereof) must meet the criteria of one of the following:
Agricultural Use - at least 5 acres of land devoted to the bona fide production for sale of plants and animals useful to man under uniform standards prescribed by the Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services; or land devoted to and meeting the requirements and qualifications for payments or other compensation pursuant to a soil conservation program under an agreement with an agency of the federal government or for property used for recreational activities (for a profit or otherwise) as long as the recreational activities do not change the character of the property so that it does not meet the uniform standards prescribed by the Commissioner.
Horticultural Use - at least 5 acres of land devoted to the bona fide production for sale of fruits of all kinds, including grapes, nuts, and berries; vegetables; nursery and floral products under uniform standards prescribed by the Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services; or land devoted to and meeting the requirements and qualifications for payments or other compensation pursuant to a soil conservation program under an agreement with an agency of the federal government or for property used for recreational activities (for a profit or otherwise) as long as the recreational activities do not change the character of the property so that it does not meet the uniform standards prescribed by the Commissioner.
Forest Use - at least 20 acres of land, including the standing timber and trees, devoted to tree growth in such quantity and so spaced and maintained as to constitute a forest area under standards prescribed by the State Forester; or for property used for recreational activities (for a profit or otherwise) as long as the recreational activities do not change the character of the property so that it no longer constitutes a forest area under standards prescribed by the State Forester.
In determining if a property meets the criteria for one of the above-mentioned uses, the City Assessor will require documentation proving the land is being utilized in accordance with City and State definitions of land use. This documentation will be required annually. The City Assessor may also request an opinion from the Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce, the Director of the Department of Conservation and Economic Development, or the Director of the Commission of Outdoor Recreation. If these parties refuse to issue an opinion or if they issue an unfavorable opinion that does not comply with the standards set forth by the respective director, the party aggrieved may seek relief from the Circuit Court for the City of Lynchburg.
How to Apply
Complete and submit a Virginia Department of Taxation physical Application (PDF) or an online application to the City Assessor for the classification, assessment, and taxation of qualifying property. (Applications should be received by the City Assessor on or before May 1st of each year for the next succeeding tax year. In any year in which a general reassessment is being made, applications may be submitted until thirty (30) days have elapsed after the notice of increase in assessment is mailed or sixty (60) days preceding the tax year which begins July 1st, whichever is later.) Applications are available from the City Assessor's Office. An application should be submitted whenever the use or acreage of the land previously approved changes; provided that the property owner must revalidate annually with the City Assessor any applications previously approved. There is a non-refundable initial application fee of $40. A separate application must be submitted for each parcel on the land book.
In addition to a physical Application (PDF) or an online application, first-time applicants must submit a recorded plat, in its entirety, for each parcel. The courthouse locality, deed book or instrument number reference, and the date recorded must also be provided. Partial plats will not be accepted. Documentation supporting that the land to be accepted into qualified agricultural or horticultural use has been farmed for that use for the last five years must also be provided by first-time applicants.
What Happens When Applying
- The City Assessor will determine whether the property meets the criteria for eligibility. If it is decided that the property does meet the criteria, the City Assessor will determine the value of the property for its qualifying use, as well as its fair market value.
- The use value and fair market value of all qualified property will be placed on the land book before delivery to the city collector and the tax for the next succeeding tax year will be extended from the use value.
- A roll-back tax for the current year and the prior 5 years (with 10% interest) will be imposed upon any property as to which the use changes to a non-qualifying use or upon a property to which the owner has requested a zoning change not related to land use.
- Within 60 days following a change in use, the owner must report the use change to the City Assessor, so that a determination and assessment of roll-back taxes can be made. This assessment should be paid to the city collector within 30 days of the assessment. If the owner fails to report a use change within 60 days of the change and/or fails to pay the roll-back tax within 30 days of assessment, the owner will be liable for an additional penalty of ten % (10%) of the amount of the roll-back tax and interest. In addition to the penalty, interest in the amount of one-half % (½%) of the amount of the roll-back tax, interest, and penalty will be collected for each month or fraction thereof during which the failure continues.