Owners of five specific classifications of 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 2019, that fee is $1,560.
Application Documents for the Open Space Classification (PDFs)
Application | Checklist | Instructions | Process | Eligibility Criteria | Rating System | Contact List
Application Documents for the Timber Lands Classification (PDFs)
Application | Checklist | Instructions | Process | Eligibility Criteria | Contact List
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.