There are three different “Chapter Land” programs available. They are Forestry – Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 61, Agriculture / Horticulture – Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 61A, and Recreation – Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 61B.
Chapter 61 - Forestry Land is designed to encourage the preservation and enhancement of the Commonwealth’s forests. A parcel must consist of at least 10 contiguous acres of land under the same ownership and be managed under a 10 year management plan approved and certified by the State Forester in order to qualify for and retain classification as forest land under Chapter 61.
Chapter 61A - Agricultural and Horticultural Land is designed to encourage the preservation of the Commonwealth's valuable farmland and promote active agricultural and horticultural land use. The property must consist of at least 5 contiguous acres of land under the same ownership and be "actively devoted" to agricultural or horticultural use in order to qualify for and retain classification as agricultural or horticultural land under Chapter 61A. An equal amount of contiguous non-productive land may also qualify for classification.
For the land to be considered "actively devoted" to a farm use, it must have been farmed for the two years prior to the year of classification and must have produced a certain amount of sales. The minimum gross sales requirement is $500 for the first 5 acres of productive land being classified, unless the additional acreage is woodland or wetland. In that case, the amount is increased by only $.50 for each additional acre.
Chapter 61B - Recreational Land is designed to encourage the preservation of the Commonwealth’s open space and promote recreational land uses. Property must consist of at least 5 contiguous acres of land under the same ownership in order to qualify for and retain classification as recreational land under Chapter 61B. The land must fall into one of the following two categories to qualify:
- It must be maintained in a substantially natural, wild or open condition or must be maintained in a landscaped condition permitting the preservation of wildlife and natural resources. It does not have to be open to the public, but can be held as private, undeveloped, open space land.
- It must be used for certain recreational purposes and must be open to the public or members of a non-profit organization.
The property owner must submit a written application to the Board of Assessors of the city or town in which the land is located by October 1 of the year before the start of the fiscal year* for which taxation as classified land is sought and every year thereafter.
Once an initial application for classification has been approved, the local assessors will record a statement at the Registry of Deeds indicating that the land has been classified as forestry under Chapter 61, agricultural / horticultural land under Chapter 61A or recreational land under Chapter 61B. The statement will constitute a lien on the land for all taxes due under the respective chapters.
Municipal Option to Purchase
The city or town has an option to purchase any classified land whenever the owner plans to sell or convert it to a residential, commercial, or industrial use. The owner must notify by certified mail the selectmen, assessors, planning board and conservation commission of the town of any intention to sell or convert the land to those uses. If the owner plans to sell the land, the town has the right to match a bona fide offer to purchase it. If the owner plans to convert it, the city or town has the right to purchase it at its fair market value, which is determined by an impartial appraisal. The city or town may also assign its option to a non-profit, conservation organization. The owner cannot sell or convert the land until at least 120 days have passed since the mailing of the required notices or until the owner has been notified in writing that the option will not be exercised, whichever is earlier.
With each of these programs, there is a conveyance tax penalty for withdrawing land.
For more information, please visit the Department of Revenue’s website or contact the Assessor’s Office at(781) 834-5585. Additionally each application must include the “Property Owners Rights and Obligations” under the appropriate MGL to which the application is made.
State Tax Form CL-1 - Application for Forest -- Agricultural or Horticultural -- Recreational Land Classification
State Tax Form CL-1(61) - Property Owner's Acknowledgement of Rights and Obligations under Classified Forest Land Program
State Tax Form CL-1(61A) - Property Owner's Acknowledgement of Rights and Obligations under Classified Agricultural or Horticultural Land Program
State Tax Form CL-1(61B) - Property Owner's Acknowledgement of Rights and Obligations under Classified Recreational Land Program
This information was provided by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, Division of Local Services.