Asked in Tax Law for Georgia

Q: Re GA Code 48-5-7.4 Bona Fide Conservation Use Property . We were denied but property was previously under covenant.

We purchased 13.5 acre tract and previous owner had it under Conservation Use but it lapsed @2 years ago. We have a registered plant license, built a commercial size greenhouse and have filed taxes for our plant business-yet our application was denied as primary use was deemed “residential “.

My understanding is our residential house would NOT be part of covenant , so don’t understand how remaining land is residential.Plus it looks like under (2-a.1) of 48-5-7.4 that if previous covenant was terminated and primary use is going to be maintenance of “wildlife habitat” and the natural state of the property, county board tax assessors are REQUIRED to accept such use as qualifying . We are applying in good faith and plan to preserve land in its natural state and grow plants and trees.

Am I interpreting (2-a.1) correctly? Thanks!!

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1 Lawyer Answer

A: I am not licensed in Georgia, but the rules are similar in Florida. The zoning designation of conservation is the least taxed category; accordingly, all land zoned in that category is also the most closely watched by taxing authorities.

In communities that are growing the conservation designation is also limited in time--because sprawling suburbs usually mean huge increases in income for the county.

Regardless of the prior use, and regardless of what you are trying to do, since there is a house on the land (yours) there is no need to change the designation because it is already correct: residential, albeit not like most residential areas.

IMPO, you should stop trying to go back to conservation and look for some other higher-taxed category (there are many) that will allow you to stay in your house while at the same time allow you to operate your planned "plant business" on most of the surrounding land. Not trying to scare you, but the alternatives might include the county declaring that you cannot operate ANY business on the residential zoned land--unless you agree to have the lions share of it changed to some category that includes COMMERCIAL use. Hire an experienced LOCAL lawyer who has a rapport with the county zoning people. .

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