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These are complex programs that are easily misunderstood. Because of this, there are several reoccurring questions:

“Will I see a reduction on my entire tax bill?”
“Do I have to reapply each year?”
“I heard I can withdraw after ten years and owe nothing back.”
“Will county staff or the public now be coming on my property?”
“Can I enroll just my wetland area in PBRS, since I can’t do anything with it anyway?”
“Can I remove a tree in the participating area that’s about to fall on my house?”
“Am I allowed to walk on my land once it’s enrolled in the program?”
“I read that I need a farm management plan to receive credit for the farm and agricultural land category. What is a farm management plan?”
“How do I get a farm plan? How much does it cost?”
“I read that I need a forest stewardship plan to receive credit for the forest stewardship land category. What is a forest stewardship plan?”
“How do I get a forest stewardship plan? How much does it cost?”
“I read that I need a resource restoration plan to receive credit for the resource restoration category. What is a resource restoration plan?”
“What is the application process for PBRS and Timber Land programs?”

Q. “Will I see a reduction on my entire tax bill?”
A. Enrollment in PBRS or Timber Land only reduces the land value for the portion of a property participating. Most properties have a home and therefore the entire parcel can’t be enrolled, which means the improvement value (home) and the value of the land excluded from the program do not receive a tax reduction. Most enrolled properties receive a reduction that ranges from $700-$2500 each year – a savings that depends on the land’s value and, in the case of PBRS, the approved percent reduction in land value for the portion of land enrolled.

Q. “Do I have to reapply each year?”
A. Once enrolled you’re in. However, if you wish to improve your enrollment status (increase PBRS points and/or PBRS or Timber Land acreage), then you do need to reapply.

Q. “I heard I can withdraw after ten years and owe nothing back.”
A. If any portion of land enrolled in PBRS or Timber Land is withdrawn or removed, then the owner will owe back the most recent 7-year savings received on that area (interest will apply and maybe penalty as well).

Q. “Will county staff or the public now be coming on my property?”
A. Enrollment in PBRS or Timber Land does not mean your land must be accessible to the general public (unless of course you’re receiving PBRS credit for access). Program staff may schedule a visit to review your participation status, but otherwise enrollment does not provide any additional access permissions.

Q.“Can I enroll just my wetland area in PBRS, since I can’t do anything with it anyway?”
A. In a word, no. Enrolled PBRS land is land that provides additional resource protection beyond what’s required. Participants voluntarily restrict the activities/uses that might impact a resource, and offer more protection than existing regulations. This additional protection is what justifies the tax reduction.

Q. “Can I remove a tree in the participating area that’s about to fall on my house?”
A. Health and safety come first, so the answer is yes as it relates to the PBRS and Timber Land programs and allowable uses. We suggest a photo be taken before removal, then contact the agency responsible for clearing permits, perhaps consult with an arborist, and then contact program staff.

Q. “Am I allowed to walk on my land once it’s enrolled in the program?”
A. Yes, outside of sensitive areas (wetlands, creeks, required buffer areas, etc) or other restricted areas, the use of foot paths/trails isn’t restricted by participating in either program. Simply put; we hope you enjoy your land and that you continue to be good stewards of your property.

Q. “I read that I need a farm management plan to receive credit for the farm and agricultural land category. What is a farm management plan?”
A. "A farm management plan is a document developed by your Conservation District and you, the farmer or landowner. It is a series of actions developed to meet a farmer’s goals while protecting water quality and the natural resources. Some of the things considered in a farm plan are farm size, soils type, slope of the land, proximity to streams or water bodies, type of livestock or crops, the farmer’s goals, resources such as machinery or buildings and finances available. An important point to remember is you don’t have to be a commercial operation to have a farm plan developed for you - the King Conservation District works with farms of all sizes, from backyard horse owners to dairy and beef operations!" - KCD website

Q. “How do I get a farm management plan? How much does it cost?”
A. To get a farm management plan you must contact the King Conservation District to get on their waiting list. The wait time for a site visit to your property can be a few months so it is best to contact them right away.  You can contact them by phone (425-282-1900) or fill out a form on their website. A farm management plan is free.

Q. “I read that I need a forest stewardship plan to receive credit for the forest stewardship land category. What is a forest stewardship plan?”
A. "A forest stewardship plan is a written document that establishes a landowner’s intentions for a forested property and provides management guidelines for achieving the landowner’s objectives. The most basic elements of a plan include a description of the landowner’s specific ownership objectives, the resources present on the property and their current condition, and steps to achieve the landowner’s objectives and protect public resources given current conditions." - Washington State University Extension Fact Sheet FS060E

Q. “How do I get a forest stewardship plan? How much does it cost?”
A. There are a few ways that you can get a forest stewardship plan. The first option is that you can write the plan yourself using the forest stewardship plan template and then have it approved by a King County forester. Forest stewardship plans are very detailed and this option may be overwhelming for some.  The second option is to hire a professional forester. This option can be helpful for busy folks although this option can be expensive. The third option is to attend a forest stewardship class hosted by WSU. There is a fee to take the course however you are coached through writing your own forest stewardship plan. The class is offered on-location (cities vary) and on-line.

Q. “I read that I need a resource restoration plan to receive credit for the resource restoration category. What is a resource restoration plan?”
A. A resource restoration plan describes an enrolling area that will be natively re-vegetated. The emphasis will be placed on restoration of anadromous fish rearing habitat, riparian zones, migration corridors and wildlife, upland, stream and wetland habitats.

Q. “How do I get a resource restoration plan? How much does it cost?”
A. There are a few ways that you can get a resource restoration plan. The first option is that you can write the plan yourself. You can see an example of what a resource restoration plan looks like on the question above. The second option is to contact the King Conservation District either by phone (425-282-1900) or by a form on their website. A resource restoration plan is free. For those with forest restoration, it may be appropriate to work with a King County forester to help develop a restoration plan. Additionally, there are other groups that can help with resource restoration plans, contact PBRS staff to see if the group you would like use is acceptable.

Q. “What is the application process for PBRS and Timber Land programs?”
A. Participation in PBRS or Timber Land program requires approval by the King County Council (and city council if applicable). It will take approximately 4-6 months for your application to be acted on by the council. Applying this year (2013) will result in a reduction in your 2014 valuation (if your application is approved), which means your tax savings will begin in 2015.
Once we receive your application the following actions will occur prior to enrollment in PBRS or Timber Land:

  • Review of your PBRS or Timber Land application and property information
  • Site visit for resource/property analysis (staff will work with you to schedule this visit)
  • Review and approval of a forest stewardship, farm management, rural stewardship, or resource restoration plan (Enrollment in Timber land requires a forest stewardship plan be implemented while there are four PBRS categories, if pursued, that require a plan - staff review plans to ensure they meet program requirements)
  • Staff report/recommendation presented at a scheduled public hearing (If your property is located in the unincorporated area, then this hearing is held before the King County Hearing Examiner. If your property is located in a city, then two hearings are held; one by the city and a separate hearing by a committee of the county council.)
  • Affirmative action/approval required for enrollment in PBRS or Timber Land (If your property is located in the unincorporated area, then only King County Council’s action on the Examiner’s report is needed. If your property is located in a city, then affirmative action of three city council members and three county council committee members is needed – both the city and county must approve the application for enrollment to take place)
  • County Council approval (or city/committee approval) allows for the execution of an Open Space Taxation Agreement
  • Staff completes legal description and final administrative actions
  • Formal enrollment occurs once the signed Open Space Taxation Agreement is recorded.

For questions about King County Public Benefit Rating System (PBRS), please contact Bill Bernstein, PBRS and Timber Land Coordinator, WLR Rural and Regional Services Section.