New Jersey Legislature Extends Special Appraisal Rules for Land Preservation Efforts in Highlands Region

Owners of land subject to the 2004 Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act (Highlands Act) who preserve their land under the Green Acres Program or the State Farmland Preservation Program will benefit from special appraisal rules for five more years, thanks to legislation signed into law by Governor Christie on September 9. Under the “dual appraisal” provision, which expired last year but has now been extended to 2014, landowners receive two appraisals — one based on current property value, and one based on pre-Highlands Act zoning and other restrictions — and the higher appraisal is used as the basis for negotiation with the State on the appropriate payment.

According to a report released in August by the Highlands Council, nearly 300,000 acres of open space and farmland in the Highlands Region, or one-third of its total area, are already preserved. Preservation will also receive a major boost beginning next year when additional funds are generated from a $400 million land preservation bond issue approved by voters last year.

Both the extension of the “dual appraisal” provision and the availability of new preservation funding should enhance Highlands land preservation efforts in the coming years. Landowners who are concerned about the effect of the Highlands Act on the value of their property may want to investigate the potential benefits of various land preservation options.

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