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Environmental & Resource Protection
Williamson Act Program

There is currently a moratorium on applications for new contracts. As directed by the Board of Supervisors, the County shall maintain the Williamson Act program for existing contracts only and will not accept or take action on applications for new contracts until such time the State resumes making subvention payments.

The Williamson Act program allows eligible property owners to enter into a contract with the County of Santa Cruz to preserve commercial agricultural land. In order to be eligible to enter into a contract with the County, the parcels must be:

  • Located within an Agricultural Preserve – a parcel which is designated as an Agricultural Resource (Type 1, 2 or 3) in the County General Plan is located within an Agricultural Preserve.
  • Zoned Commercial Agriculture (CA), Agriculture Preserve (AP), or TP (Timber Production)
  • Designated Agriculture (AG) or Mountain Residential (R-M), Parks, Recreation and Open Space (O-R), or Resource Conservation (O-C) for TP zoned parcels, in the County General Plan.
  • At least 10 acres in size if designated as a Type 1 or 3 Agricultural Resource.
  • At least 40 acres in size if designated as a Type 2 Agricultural Resource.

Parcels under contract are further restricted from development activities than parcels with a CA, AP, or TP zoning. Usually, the contract allows for the construction of a single family dwelling and other structures directly associated with the commercial agricultural use of the property, such as barns or other agricultural outbuildings. Proposed uses or structures on parcels under contract are subject to a Compatibility Review (State Government Code 51238.1).

Contracts are usually approved for a term of 10 or 20 years and automatically renew every year thereby maintaining the 10 or 20 year contract term. The contract is maintained at the original term until the contract is not renewed by the property owner or the County, or until the contract is cancelled by the property owner.

The County identifies parcels under contract with a combining zone district (-P). When the Board of Supervisors approves a new Williamson Act contract, the parcel or parcels under contract are also rezoned to include the –P combining district. Conversely, a non-renewal or a cancellation of a contract also requires a rezoning to remove the –P combining district.

An application to enter into a new contract, or to not renew or cancel an existing contract requires approval from the County Board of Supervisors with recommendations from the Agricultural Policy Advisory Commission and the Planning Commission; therefore, three public hearings are required.

Properties under contract will often be eligible for a reduced land value assessment. Please contact the County Assessor’s Office at 454-2002 for specific information regarding land value assessments associated with Williamson Act contracts.

Preparing to speak with a planner:
Information regarding a parcel’s specific zoning, general plan designation, parcel size, and agricultural resource type can be found on the Planning Department website with the Geographic Information System (GIS) application. Once the parcel is located using the hand and magnifying glass tools or the search feature, use the red Parcel Identification tool to click on the subject parcel. Review the Parcel Info and Results at the bottom of the screen for parcel specific information.

California Department of Conservation County Assessor’s Office