Open Space programs provide property tax incentives for property owners whose lands meet specific criteria. Those land owners who engage in timber production, agriculture or whose property has significant public benefit due to its historic, cultural or scenic nature can benefit from considerable tax deferrals by enrolling one of the Opens Space Programs.
What Is the Open Space Taxation Program?
The Open Space Taxation Act, enacted in 1970, allows property owners to have their open space, farm and agricultural, and timber lands valued at their current use rather than at their highest and best use. The Act states that it is in the best interest of the State to maintain, preserve, conserve and otherwise continue in existence of adequate open space lands for the production of food, fiber, and forest crops and to assure the use of enjoyment of natural resources and scenic beauty for the economic and social well-being of the state and its citizens.
The Building and Planning Department is responsible for processing those Open Space applications that require a public hearing. These include: Agricultural Conservation, and Open, Open. Once an application is processed, the Assessor's Office manages the program and becomes the primary point of contact for participants.
Rules for Family Owned Jointly Managed Parcels
An eligibility standard for Open Space programs allow contiguous parcels, under family ownership and managed as a single unit, to be processed as one application. Review the July 25, 2011, State Department of Revenue brief (PDF).
The Building and Planning Department is a cost recovery department and provides services with fees based upon processing expenses. View the current fee schedule: BP-04 Fee Schedule (PDF).
The following is intended to provide a general outline of how applications are processed. The Building and Planning Department handles those applications that require public hearings before the County's designated Public Benefits Rating Board. In Spokane County, the Planning Commission serves as this recommending body. The table below provides a brief description of the Open Space programs and indicates which County Department processes the applications.
Open Space Programs
Open Space Program
Farm and Agriculture
Lands in farm and agricultural production
Timber production greater than 20 acres
Farm and Agricultural Conservation
Building & Planning
Qualifying farmland not currently being farmed
Timber production greater than 5 acres
Building & Planning
Culturally, historically or physically unique lands with public access
Begin in the Assessor's Office and inquire if the programs available will meet your needs. Discuss the tax benefits and the costs of entry. Contact the Current Use Department at 509-477-2096.
Should your program of interest be processed by the Spokane County Building and Planning Department make that your next stop.
Contact the Spokane County Building and Planning Department for a pre-conference in which the details of your program of interest will be explained and an application packet will be provided. Drop-ins are welcome, but an appointment can reduce the wait times. Contact Robert Brock at 509-477-7223. Allow at least 30 minutes for the pre-conference.
Set up an appointment to submit your completed application and supporting materials. Processing fees must be paid with submittals. Contact Robert Brock at 509-477-7223. Allow at least 30 minutes.
Once we have a complete application, we will transmit to the Spokane County Assessor's Office that your application is in process. A planner will review your application and compose a staff report addressing the program's admission criteria. When the report is complete, a public hearing will be scheduled before the Spokane County Planning Commission. Depending upon workload, it typically takes between four to eight weeks before a hearing will occur.
During the public hearing, the Planning Commission will review the application to ensure the required entrance criteria have been met. If this is the case, a recommendation to approve is produced and forwarded to the Board of County Commissioners.
The Board receives the Planning Commission's recommendation, staff report and application materials and then makes a determination to accept the recommendation and approve, reject for cause or hold their own hearing to collect more evidence. Typically, they vote to accept and approve these applications.
Following a vote to approve, the resolution is signed officially re-designating the land's tax classification. An Open Space Taxation Agreement is also signed.
The resolution and the agreement are mailed to the applicant. The agreement is signed by the applicant and returned to the Department of Building and Planning.
When the signed agreement is returned, it and all associated documents are transmitted to the Spokane County Assessor's Office who will now become the point of contact for the applicant, as they administer all ongoing Open Space participants.
Applicants are responsible for a once a year report to the Spokane County Assessor's Office on activities related to their current use status.