The expiration or termination of a Williamson Act contract may occur for a number of reasons and are listed as follows:
A landowner or the city/county initiates a Notice of Nonrenewal for the entire contract or a portion of the contracted land, which begins a nine year count down to the expiration of the contract. The land is still subject to all the requirements of the contract until it expires. Refer to Government Code Section 51245 on the California Legislative Information website for the statute on nonrenewals. To apply for a nonrenewal of a contract, a landowner must initiate the process through their local Planning or Community Development Department.
A landowner must submit an application to the City or County requesting the contract be cancelled for a portion or the entirety of the contracted area. See the Contract Cancellations page for detailed information and constraints. For questions regarding cancellations, contact your local Planning Department.
Williamson Act easement exchange legislation became effective January 1, 1998. It provides a voluntary rescission process for local entities and landowners to cancel a Williamson Act contract and simultaneously dedicate a permanent agricultural conservation easement on other land. A board or council must make specified findings in order to cancel a contract. The easement value on the easement parcel must be equal to or greater than the cancellation fee required to cancel the contract. In addition, the land to be placed under an easement must be of equal size or larger than the Williamson Act contracted land. Please see the two-page, printable Fact Sheet (PDF, 99 kb) for more information.
The rescission of a Williamson Act or Farmland Security Zone contract and entry into a Solar-Use Easement results in the termination of a portion or the entirety of a contracted area, while simultaneously establishing an easement in its place that would limit the use of the land to solar energy production (ancillary agricultural uses may also be allowed, as determined by the City or County). Please see the Solar-Use Easements page for further information.
Public Acquisition of Contracted Land
A public acquisition refers to the acquisition of land located within an agricultural preserve or under a Williamson Act or Farmland Security Zone contract. Only a public agency or person who has specific authority to acquire land through eminent domain may utilize this method. Very specific requirements must be met in order to facilitate termination of a contract by public acquisition. If specific requirements are not met, the contract will remain in force and continue to restrict use of the land. Please see the Public Acquisitions page for further information.
Government Code §51250(b) defines a material breach on land subject to a Williamson Act contract as a commercial, industrial or residential building(s), exceeding 2,500 square feet that is not permissible under the Williamson Act, contract, local uniform rules or ordinances, and which was permitted or built after January 1, 2004. If the city or county determine a material breach exists, one option for correcting the breach is termination of the portion of the contract that is not in compliance, and a monetary penalty of 25% of the unrestricted fair market value of the affected portion of the land. For further information please see the Material Breach page.
A City's Refusal of Succession of a Land Conservation (Williamson) Act Contract
When a city annexes land that is subject to a Williamson Act contract, the local agency formation commission shall determine whether the city may exercise its option to not succeed the rights, duties, and powers of the county with regard to the existing contract. However, this can only occur in very specific situations and requires further reading of the statute to determine whether this option would apply. Please see Government Code Section 51243.5.