PART I. ADMINISTRATION OF THE GOVERNMENT

 

TITLE VII. CITIES, TOWNS AND DISTRICTS

 

CHAPTER 40L. AGRICULTURAL INCENTIVE AREAS

 

Chapter 40L: Section 1. Definitions

 

Section 1. Definitions.—as used in this chapter the following words shall, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise, have the following meaning:—

“Agricultural land”, land suitable for agricultural or horticultural use, including land rated by the United States Department of Agriculture Soil Conservation Service as Class 1 through Class IV, unique, or of statewide or local area importance.

“Agricultural lands preservation committee”, committee established under the provisions of section eleven B of chapter one hundred and thirty-two A.

“Commissioner”, commissioner of the department of food and agriculture.

“Committee”, municipal agricultural incentive areas committee established pursuant to section two.

“Department”, the department of food and agriculture.

“Land in agricultural or horticultural use”, land which meets the requirements for such land for classification under chapter sixty-one A, whether or not such land is so classified.

Chapter 40L: Section 2. Agricultural incentive area committee

 

Section 2. The board of selectmen in a town or the mayor of a city with approval of the city council may establish an agricultural incentive area committee for the purpose of investigating, delineating, and establishing an agricultural incentive area in the municipality, hereinafter called area.

Said committee shall consist of seven members appointed by the board of selectmen or by the mayor with the approval of the city council. Said members shall include one member of the board of selectmen or city council, one member of the planning board, one member of the conservation commission, three residents of the municipality whose principal occupation is agriculture or horticulture and one person from the public at large.

Each member shall serve for a term of three years, except that in the initial appointments two members shall serve for a term of one year, three members shall serve for a term of two years and two members shall serve for a term of three years.

Any member of said committee so appointed may, after a public hearing if requested, be removed for cause and a new member appointed by the appointing authority.

All members of the committee shall serve without compensation.

The committee shall elect annually a chairman and vice-chairman from its own members and a secretary who need not be a member of the committee. The committee shall hold an annual meeting in March and from time to time at the call of the chairman or upon the request of any two members. Four members of the committee shall constitute a quorum. The committee may, by a vote of a majority of its members then in office, adopt rules and regulations for the conduct of its business. Rules and regulations adopted may be amended or repealed by a two-thirds vote of its members.

Chapter 40L: Section 3. Location of agricultural or horticultural land; informational meetings

 

Section 3. The committee shall locate and map all land in agricultural or horticultural use within the town or city showing such soil classification information as is available from the United States Department of Agriculture Soil Conservation Service. Such map or maps shall indicate property boundaries, the owner of the land, and the present zoning classification of said land. Conservation districts as established pursuant to the provisions of chapter twenty-one, regional planning districts as established pursuant to the provisions of chapter forty B, and the department of food and agriculture shall make available to the committee such maps, data, and other available information as is pertinent to the work of the committee.

The committee shall make available in one or more public places, the aforementioned maps, and provide printed information to all affected landowners. Said committee shall hold one or more public informational meetings in order to explain the purposes and requirements of such agricultural incentive areas. Notice of said meetings shall be given by registered mail to all affected or abutting landowners and by publication.

Chapter 40L: Section 4. Establishment of agricultural incentive areas; procedure

 

Section 4. Upon completion of the requirements of section three, the committee shall formulate its recommendations for the formation of an agricultural incentive area within the town or city. Such areas shall be composed principally of agricultural land, land in agricultural or horticultural use, and certain lands contiguous thereto. The committee shall submit said recommendations to local conservation commissions, planning boards, selectmen, or mayor or city manager, and city council, the area conservation district and the regional planning district for their review, and comment within thirty days from receipt thereof. Within the next sixty days following the above mentioned review period, the committee may make such revisions as are in their opinion indicated by said comments and shall hold a public hearing within the municipality. Following the public hearing, the committee may adopt as a plan the proposal or any revisions thereto it deems appropriate; provided, however, that no land may be included in an agricultural incentive area plan pursuant to this section unless the owner of the land has approved in writing the inclusion of his land in the area. The committee shall act to adopt or reject the proposed agricultural incentive area no later than thirty days from the time of the public hearing. The adoption of an agricultural incentive area plan shall be by a two-thirds vote of the committee. The committee shall submit the area plan to the commissioner of food and agriculture for certification by the agricultural lands preservation committee.

The agricultural lands preservation committee shall have sixty days after receipt of the area plan within which to certify to the committee whether the proposed plan is eligible, whether the area to be included consists primarily of suitable agricultural land, and whether the plan of the proposed area appears feasible. If the agricultural lands preservation committee disapproves the area plan, it shall state its reasons for such disapproval in writing together with such suggestions as it deems appropriate. If the agricultural lands preservation committee fails to certify the area plan, the agricultural incentive area committee may resubmit such plan only after the committee has held another public hearing at which hearing any modifications proposed by the agricultural lands preservation committee shall be considered.

Upon certification of an area plan by the agricultural lands preservation committee, the agricultural incentive area committee shall submit the plan to the selectmen or mayor. Approval of the area plan shall require a two-thirds vote of the city council in a city or town meeting in a town. If approved, the area shall be in effect sixty days from the date of approval.

If the area plan is approved by the city or town, the committee shall file a description of the area and a map thereof with the chairman of the planning board, the clerk of the municipality, and the commissioner. The selectmen, mayor or city manager shall file such plan in the public restriction tract index established pursuant to the provisions of section thirty-three of chapter one hundred and eighty-four, of the appropriate registry of deeds.

Chapter 40L: Section 5. Sale of land or conversion to other use

 

Section 5. Land within an agricultural incentive area shall not be sold for or converted to residential, industrial or commercial use or removed from the area unless the city or town in which such land is located and the department of food and agriculture on behalf of the state has been notified of the intent to sell or convert to such other use or remove said land from the area; provided, however, that the discontinuance of the use of such land for agricultural or horticultural purposes shall not be deemed a conversion to another use. Specific use of land for a residence for the owner or a parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, or brother or sister of the owner, or the surviving husband or wife of any deceased such relative, or for living quarters for any person actively employed full time in the agricultural or horticultural use of such land, shall not be deemed a conversion to another use for the purposes of this section, and a certificate of the board of assessors, recorded at the appropriate registry of deeds or land registration office, shall conclusively establish that a particular use is such use. Such notice of intent shall be sent by the landowner by registered mail, return receipt requested, to the mayor and city council of a city, or to the board of selectmen of a town, to its planning board and conservation commission, and to the commissioner of the department of food and agriculture. For a period of sixty days subsequent to the mailing of such notice, the city or town, or the commonwealth shall have, in the case of intended sale, a first refusal option to meet a bona fide offer to purchase said land or, in the case of intended conversion to residential, commercial or industrial use not involving sale and not specifically exempted herein, an option to purchase said land at full and fair market value to be determined by impartial appraisal in accordance with recognized professional standards. No sale or conversion to another use of such land shall occur until either said option period shall have expired or the landowner shall have been notified in writing by the mayor or board of selectmen of the city or town in question, and by the commissioner that said option will not be exercised. Such option shall be exercised by written notice signed by the mayor or board of selectmen or by the commissioner mailed within the option period to the landowner by registered mail at such address as may be specified in his notice of intent and recorded with the appropriate registry of deeds or land registration office. Such option may only be exercised by the municipality or the department upon a showing that there are sufficient funds available to exercise said option.

The notice of intent, notice of exercise of the option and notice of nonexercise of the option, shall contain the name of the record owner of the land and a description of the premises so to be sold or converted adequate for identification thereof.

The option to purchase may be exercised by the commissioner, or municipality acting jointly or individually in one or more of the following ways; provided, however, that a determination has made made in writing that such purchase will likely result in the land remaining actively devoted to agricultural, horticultural, or agricultural and horticultural use as defined in sections one to five, inclusive, of chapter sixty-one A:

(a) purchase of all or part of the property in fee; provided, however, that there is a purchaser for the remaining property.

(b) purchase of an agricultural preservation restriction on all or part of the property pursuant to the provisions of section eleven A to eleven D, inclusive, of chapter one hundred and thirty-two A; provided however, that there is a purchaser for the remaining property and the residual agricultural interest in the property under the above restriction.

(c) purchase of all or part of the property by a private land trust or other charitable corporation which has received authorization from the commissioner to exercise such option on behalf of the department of food and agriculture for the purpose of acquiring an agricultural preservation restriction on the agricultural land provided, however that such trust or charitable corporation has been established at least twelve months prior to such notice of intent.

If the municipality or the commissioner does not exercise said option to purchase, said land shall be removed from the area.

The provisions of this section shall not be applicable with respect to a mortgage foreclosure sale, except that the holder of a mortgage shall, at least thirty days before a foreclosure sale, send written notice, by registered mail, of the time and place of such sale, to the parties and in the manner provided for in this section for notice of intent to sell or convert.

Notwithstanding the aforesaid provisions, a landowner may notify the committee by registered mail, return receipt requested, of his intent to withdraw from an agricultural incentive area. Said withdrawal shall be effective two years from the date of said notification.

Chapter 40L: Section 6. Property tax; assessment

 

Section 6. Land in an agricultural incentive area, determined by the local assessor to be actively devoted to agricultural, horticultural, or agricultural and horticultural use as defined in sections one to five, inclusive, of chapter sixty-one A, shall be assessed for general property tax purposes at values no greater than those determined by the methods and provisions of section ten of said chapter sixty-one A.

Chapter 40L: Section 7. Special or betterment assessments

 

Section 7. Land in an agricultural incentive area, determined by the local assessor to be actively devoted to agricultural, horticultural, or agricultural and horticultural use as defined in sections one to five, inclusive, of chapter sixty-one A and which is subject to special assessments or betterment assessments shall be so assessed as provided under section eighteen of said chapter sixty-one A.

Chapter 40L: Section 8. Eligibility of area for purchase of agricultural preservation restrictions; priority

 

Section 8. Land in an agricultural incentive area shall receive priority for a determination of eligibility for the purchase of agricultural preservation restrictions by the commonwealth pursuant to the program established by section eleven A to eleven D, inclusive, of chapter one hundred and thirty-two A.

Chapter 40L: Section 9. Rules and regulations

 

Section 9. The commissioner of the department of food and agriculture is hereby empowered to promulgate such rules and regulations and to prescribe such forms as he shall deem necessary to effectuate the purposes of this chapter.

Chapter 40L: Section 10. Local acceptance of chapter

 

Section 10. The provisions of this chapter shall apply in a city after acceptance by a majority vote of the city council with the approval of the mayor, in the case of a city with a Plan A, Plan B or Plan F charter; by a majority vote of the city council, in the case of a city with a Plan C, Plan D or Plan E charter; by a majority vote of the annual town meeting or a special town meeting called for the purpose, in the case of a municipality with a town meeting form of government; or by a majority vote of the town council, in the case of a municipality with a town council form of government.