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 for standard contracts, or a nineteen year countdown for Farmland Securtity Zone contracts. The land is 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 the 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 the contract. The land to be placed under easement must be of equal size or larger than the Williamson Act contracted land. In addition, the value of the easement parcel must be equal to or greater than the cancellation fee required to cancel the contract. Please see the two-page, printable Fact Sheet for more information.
Senate Bill 618 (statutes of 2011, Chapter 596) authorized cities and counties the option to create solar-use easements. This legislation ended in 2020 and was reinstated in January 2023. An application may be submitted by the landowner to their city or county in order to rescind the current Williamson Act or Farmland Security Zone contract and simultaneously enter into a solar-use easement. See the Solar-Use Easement page for further information and constraints. For general information regarding solar power on Williamson Act contracted land, see our Solar Power and the Williamson Act document.
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 use this method. If eminent domain authority is not used, the land may still be acquired by the public agency, but the contract will remain in force and continue to restrict the 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 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.