The California Land Conservation Act, more popularly known as the Williamson Act, was created when the Assembly Agriculture Committee undertook a study in cooperation with the California Department of Food and Agriculture and others that eventually led to the passage of legislation in 1965.
Under the Williamson Act, an owner of agricultural land may enter into a contract with the county if the landowner agrees to restrict use of the land to the production of commercial crops for a term of not less than 10 years. The term of the contract is automatically extended each year unless notice of cancellation or nonrenewal is given. Certain compatible uses are also allowed on the property. In return, the landowner is taxed on the capitalization of the income from the land, and not on the Proposition 13 value. Additional information on the California Land Conservation Act is available from the California Department of Conservation at http://www.conservation.ca.gov/dlrp/lca.
Mendocino County Williamson Act Information
The Great Redwood Rail Trail Proposal
SB 1029, authored by Senator McGuire, was introduced in February 2018 titled,” The Great Redwood Trail Act” and was amended and approved by the Governor in September 2018. The basic intent of the legislation is twofold: First, SB 1029 would dissolve the North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA). Second, the bill would then create two separate management entities for the northern and southern halves of the existing rail system to essentially utilize, and perhaps expand, the existing footprint of the railway and construct a multi-use trail. The state Transportation Agency and the Natural Resources Agency are tasked to create a report by July 1, 2020 that would include existing NCRA debts/liabilities, NCRA assets/property easements/right-of-way, a viability assessment for creating the trail, trail governance structure options and more.
The Great Redwood Trail proposal provides public access for a number of recreational purposes (hiking, biking and equestrian uses) which could create impacts to the numerous private properties that the rail line currently crosses in the 300 miles of track plus spur lines (there are 1300 parcels that the RR line crosses/borders in Mendocino County alone). There are numerous private properties, a number of these are involved in farming or ranching, that may be impacted by the placement and/or use of the trail. This may also require the construction of trail crossings, further imperiling adjacent land holders. Since this trail is 300 miles long, issues related to garbage, camping/overnight stays, human waste or possible fire risk should also be considered. The legislation is unclear as to how disputes related to these types of interactions may be dealt with. Moreover, due to deteriorating conditions along the defunct rail line and the associated deferred maintenance issues, the newly established Agency may consider alternative routes beyond the scope of the existing right-of-way which may result in the dissection of private property.
If the existing railroad adjoins or crosses your property in Mendocino County, you should pay attention to this rail trail proposal as it moves forward. Farm Bureau is not against public recreational opportunities, however the potential impacts to farming and ranching operations as well as private properties along the proposed trail route cannot be ignored.