The Agricultural, Forest and Open Space Land Act of 1976, better known as the Greenbelt Law, allows certain land to be taxed on its present use instead of market value. The law is designed to preserve farm and forest land for valuable food and fiber and to maintain open space for public enjoyment by easing some of the burden of property taxes. In order to qualify, property must meet certain criteria such as land type, size minimums, use, and income produced from farming.
The law limits the amount of property which can be qualified for greenbelt to 1,500 acres per owner per county. If an owner owns property with others or as part of a corporation, partnership, etc., each owner is credited with their proportionate share towards that limit. 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:
- Agricultural land
- Forest Land
- Open Space Land
Greenbelt Application Procedure
- Application must be made by March 15th of the year which Greenbelt classification is sought.
- New owners of property currently in Greenbelt must reapply.
- Complete an application for Agriculture or Forest, which you can click on the appropriate pdf link or pick up at the Assessors office. Note: application must be notarized.
- Submit application to the Assessors office for review and leave your contact information.
- Parcel will be physically reviewed and you may be contacted.
- Upon application acceptance, you will need to have the application recorded with the Register of Deeds, for which there is a $12.00 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
- The owner continues to live on the property
- 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
have tree growth in such quantity and quality as to be managed like a forest.
- Have a forestry management plan completed by a Consulting Forester. Forest Stewardship Program , Forest Management Plan Template
- 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
- 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
- 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.
Agricultural and Forest Resources
Natural Resources Conservation Service Tennessee
Environmental Improvement Programs
- National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) -
- Conservation Innovation Grants -
- Water Bank Program (WBP) -
- Working Lands for Wildlife -