In 1976, the Tennessee General Assembly enacted the Agricultural, Forest and Open Space Land Act of 1976 (TCA §§ 67-5-1001 through 1050). This law is commonly known as “greenbelt”. The purpose of the Act is to help preserve agricultural, forest, and open space land. This is accomplished by valuing land based upon its present use, rather than at a highest and best use. When property is valued at its highest and best use, the threat of development can bring about land use conflicts, create high costs for public services, contribute to increased energy usage, and stimulate land speculation.
Types of Greenbelt
In Sequatchie County, properties may be classified as either agricultural or forest. We do not currently have property qualifying as open space land.
Agricultural Land is classified as a tract of at least fifteen acres that is currently engaged in farming. Farming includes growing crops, plants, animals, nurseries, etc. The current required test for farm use is a property’s ability to generate an average annual income of at least $1,500 over any three year period.
Forest Land is classified as a tract of at least fifteen acres engaged in growning trees under a sound program of sustained yield management, or having tree growth in such quantity as to be managed as a forest. Forest Land requires that a licensed forester review the property and a signed Forest Management Plan be filed with the Assessor’s office.
How to Apply
Applications for the greenbelt program can be obtained in the assessor’s office, from the Forms page, or directly from the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury website. Typically, an application can be filled out and approved with a short visit to the Assessor’s office. After approval, the property owner is responsible for recording the application at the Sequatchie County Register of Deeds office. The property is not enrolled in the program unless the application has been recorded. Once enrolled, the property owner is not required to reapply each year, but is required by law to promptly notify the assessor of any change in the use or ownership of the property which would affect its eligibility to the program.
Applications must be recorded by March 15th. However, some applications are eligible for a $50 late filing fee. Please contact the Assessor with requests to file past the March 15th deadline.
What are “Rollback Taxes”?
A property that has been assessed as Greenbelt can become disqualified for any of the following reasons:
In these instances, the owner may be liable to pay what are referred to as “rollback” taxes on the property. “Rollback” is simply the difference between the Greenbelt assessment and the market value assessment that would have been applied if the property had not been in the program. In simple terms, it is paying back the tax savings the owner benefitted from under the program. The rollback period is three years (the current year and the two preceding years). If only a portion of the property is sold or converted to a non-qualifying use, a rollback tax is only assessed to the unqualifying portion, so long as the remaining property still qualifies. Rollback assessments are made on the tax roll of the next year after the property no longer qualifies. An owner should fully understand “rollback” assessments prior to enrolling in the greenbelt program. Please contact the Assessor’s office if you have any questions.
If a property owner wishes to appeal the Assessor’s decision regarding property in the program, they may appeal to the State Board of Equalization. The State Board of Equalization hears appeals of denials of timely filed greenbelt applications, appeals concerning liability for rollback taxes, and appeals of use value.
The State Board of Equalization is responsible for approving the forms used to apply for agricultural, forest or open space classification. Applications not in accordance with the approved forms will not be accepted. For additional information regarding the Greenbelt program, please visit the Comptroller of the Treasury website.