What is the Open Space Program?
Open Space FAQs (PDF)
Owners of certain properties may apply for a reduction of their County property taxes in exchange for maintaining their land in a rural, undeveloped state.
The Community Planning department processes the applications for two types of classifications, open space and timber lands. The Thurston County Assessor's Office handles the application process for the ag, farm and forest land classifications. The tax determination decision for every application is made by the Assessor's Office. Open Space classification applications go through a public review, and hearings process. There is a fee to apply--in 2022, that fee is $1,616.
How to Apply?
Open Space Classification Applications (PDFs)
Application | Checklist | Instructions | Process | Eligibility Criteria | Rating System | Contact List
Timber Lands Classification Applications (PDFs)
Application | Checklist | Instructions | Process | Eligibility Criteria | Contact List
2022 Open Space Tax Program Application Materials
The County received one application for the Open Space Tax Program in 2021. The application has been reviewed by the Planning Commission, who held a public hearing on May 18, 2022 and subsequently recommended approval of the application. The Board of County Commissioners (Board) was briefed on the application on July 14, 2022.
The Board has scheduled a public hearing on August 30th at 3:30 PM. The public may find details about how to attend the public hearing and provide verbal testimony (in person or virtually) by visiting the Board's public meetings webpage.
2021 George Application
Staff Report - George Open Space Application
MORE DETAILS ABOUT THE OPEN SPACE TAX PROGRAM
Regulatory Reasons for the Program
Washington's State Legislature adopted an Open Space Taxation Act in 1970 (RCW 84.34) requiring county governments to conserve open space lands.
County Policy (PDF) about the Program
The Public Review & Hearing Process
Open Space classification affects all property owners because taxes reduced for lands in this program are shifted to other taxpayers. Because of this, and other potential effects upon the general public interest, applications for the open space classification properties are subject to a public process that includes public hearings.
There may be an exception to the tax shift if a taxing district's statutory rate limits have been reached. However, the district receives less tax revenue, and may reduce public services or facilities. Besides being a tax-related decision, the approval of an application for current use classification is also a land use decision. If the County grants the special privilege of reduced taxes for a specific land use, then it needs to be sure that the land use is appropriate for its location, and will not result in conflicts with neighbors.
Penalties for Early Withdrawal
The minimum time in the program is nine years. Applicants who leave the program early may owe back taxes, interest and penalties.