CHAPTER 422a
AGRICULTURAL LANDS

      *See Sec. 4-66aa re funding from land protection, affordable housing and historic preservation account.

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Sec. 22-26cc. State acquisition of development rights to agricultural land. Program established. Joint ownership by the state and a town. Assistance of nonprofit organization. State acquisition of right to construct residence or farm structure.
Sec. 22-26hh. State bonds authorized for purposes of this chapter.
Sec. 22-26jj. Acquisition of fee simple title to agricultural lands. Lease of property.

      Sec. 22-26cc. State acquisition of development rights to agricultural land. Program established. Joint ownership by the state and a town. Assistance of nonprofit organization. State acquisition of right to construct residence or farm structure. (a) There is established within the Department of Agriculture a program to solicit, from owners of agricultural land, offers to sell the development rights to such land and to inform the public of the purposes, goals and provisions of this chapter. The commissioner, with the approval of the State Properties Review Board, shall have the power to acquire or accept as a gift, on behalf of the state, the development rights of any agricultural land, if offered by the owner. Notice of the offer shall be filed in the land records wherein the agricultural land is situated. If ownership of any land for which development rights have been offered is transferred, the offer shall be effective until the subsequent owner revokes the offer in writing. The state conservation and development plan established pursuant to section 16a-24 shall be applied as an advisory document to the acquisition of development rights of any agricultural lands. The factors to be considered by the commissioner in deciding whether or not to acquire such rights shall include, but not be limited to, the following: (1) The probability that the land will be sold for nonagricultural purposes; (2) the current productivity of such land and the likelihood of continued productivity; (3) the suitability of the land as to soil classification and other criteria for agricultural use; (4) the degree to which such acquisition would contribute to the preservation of the agricultural potential of the state; (5) any encumbrances on such land; (6) the cost of acquiring such rights; and (7) the degree to which such acquisition would mitigate damage due to flood hazards. Ownership by a nonprofit organization authorized to hold land for conservation and preservation purposes of land which prior to such ownership qualified for the program established pursuant to this section shall not be deemed to diminish the probability that the land will be sold for nonagricultural purposes. After a preliminary evaluation of such factors by the Commissioner of Agriculture, he shall obtain and review one or more fee appraisals of the property selected in order to determine the value of the development rights of such property. The commissioner shall notify the Department of Transportation, the Department of Economic and Community Development, the Department of Environmental Protection and the Office of Policy and Management that such property is being appraised. Any appraisal of the value of such land obtained by the owner and performed in a manner approved by the commissioner shall be considered by the commissioner in making such determination. The value of development rights for all purposes of this section shall be the difference between the value of the property for its highest and best use and its value for agricultural purposes as determined by the commissioner. The use or presence of pollutants or chemicals in the soil shall not be deemed to diminish the agricultural value of the land or to prohibit the commissioner from acquiring the development rights to such land. The commissioner may purchase development rights for a lesser amount provided he complies with all factors for acquisition specified in this subsection and in any implementing regulations. In determining the value of the property for its highest and best use, consideration shall be given but not limited to sales of comparable properties in the general area, use of which was unrestricted at the time of sale.

      (b) Upon the acquisition by the commissioner of the development rights of agricultural land, the commissioner shall cause to be filed in the appropriate land records and in the office of the Secretary of the State a notice of such acquisition which shall set forth a description of the agricultural land as will be sufficient to give any prospective purchaser of such agricultural land or creditor of the owner thereof notice of such restriction. Upon such filing, the owner of such agricultural land shall not be permitted to exercise development rights with respect to such land, and such development rights shall be considered and deemed dedicated to the state in perpetuity, except as hereinafter provided. If restricted land is to be sold, the owner shall notify, in writing, the commissioner of such impending sale not more than ninety days before transfer of title to the land and shall provide the commissioner with the name and address of the new owner.

      (c) The commissioner shall have no power to release such land from its agricultural restriction, except as set forth in this subsection. The commissioner, in consultation with the Commissioner of Environmental Protection and such advisory groups as the Commissioner of Agriculture may appoint, may approve (1) a petition by the owner of the restricted agricultural land to remove such restriction provided such petition is approved by resolution of the legislative body of the town, or (2) a petition by the legislative body of the town in which such land is situated to remove such restriction provided such petition is approved in writing by said owner. Upon approval of such a petition by the commissioner, the legislative body of the town shall submit to the qualified voters of such town the question of removing the agricultural restriction from such land or a part thereof, at a referendum held at a regular election or a special election warned and called for that purpose. In the event a majority of those voting at such referendum are in favor of such removal, the restriction shall be removed from the agricultural land upon filing of the certified results of such referendum in the land records and the office of the Secretary of the State, and the commissioner shall convey the development rights to such owner provided such owner shall pay the commissioner an amount equal to the value of such rights. Such petition shall set forth the facts and circumstances upon which the commissioner shall consider approval, and said commissioner shall deny such approval unless he determines that the public interest is such that there is an overriding necessity to relinquish control of the development rights. The commissioner shall hold at least one public hearing prior to the initiation of any proceedings hereunder. The expenses, if any, of the hearing and the referendum shall be borne by the petitioner. In the event that the state sells any development rights under the procedure provided in this subsection, it shall receive the value of such rights.

      (d) Whenever the commissioner acquires the development rights of any agricultural land and the purchase price of such development rights is ten thousand dollars or more, said commissioner and the owner of such land may enter into a written agreement which provides for the payment of the purchase price in two or three annual installments, but no interest shall be paid on any unpaid balance of such purchase price.

      (e) Whenever the commissioner acquires the development rights to any agricultural land, and any municipality in which all or part of the land is situated paid a part of the purchase price from a fund established pursuant to section 7-131q, such municipality and the state may jointly own the development rights, provided joint ownership by such municipality shall be limited to land within its boundaries. The land may be released from its agricultural restriction in accordance with the provisions of subsection (c) of this section. The commissioner shall adopt regulations in accordance with the provisions of chapter 54 establishing procedures for the joint acquisition of development rights to agricultural land.

      (f) The acquisition of the development rights to any agricultural land by the commissioner shall not be deemed to be ownership of such land and the state shall not be liable for pollution or contamination of such land and no person may bring a civil action against the state for damages resulting from pollution or contamination of such agricultural land.

      (g) The commissioner may issue a letter of intent requesting the assistance of a nonprofit organization, as defined in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, or any subsequent corresponding internal revenue code of the United States, as from time to time amended, in acquiring the development rights to certain agricultural land. If such organization acquires such rights it may sell them to the commissioner based on a purchase agreement. Such agreement may include reimbursement for reasonable expenses incurred in the acquisition of the rights as well as payment for the rights. The commissioner may enter into joint ownership agreements to acquire the development rights to any qualified agricultural land with any nonprofit organization, as defined in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, or any subsequent corresponding internal revenue code of the United States, as from time to time amended, provided the mission of such nonprofit organization is the permanent protection of agricultural land for the purposes of continued agricultural use.

      (h) In addition to development rights, the commissioner may acquire or accept as a gift the rights of the owner to construct any residences or any farm structures on agricultural land.

      (i) The Commissioner of Agriculture, pursuant to any cooperative agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture for the disbursement of funds under federal law, may require that any property to which rights are acquired under this section with such funds shall be managed in accordance with a conservation plan which utilizes the standards and specifications of the Natural Resources Conservation Service field office technical guide and is approved by such service. Any instrument by which the commissioner acquires such rights and for which any such funds are used may provide for a contingent right in the United States of America in the event that the state of Connecticut fails to enforce any of the terms of its rights acquired under this section which failure shall be determined by the United States Secretary of Agriculture. Such contingent right shall entitle the secretary to enforce any rights acquired by the state under this section by any authority provided under law. Such instrument may provide that such rights shall become vested in the United States of America in the event that the state of Connecticut attempts to terminate, transfer or otherwise divest itself of any such rights without the prior consent of the United States Secretary of Agriculture and payment of consideration to the United States and may further provide that title to such rights may be held by the United States of America at any time at the request of the United States Secretary of Agriculture. In connection with such an agreement, the commissioner may hold the United States harmless from any action based on negligence in the procurement or management of any rights acquired under this section and may assure that proper title evidence is secured, that the title is insured to the amount of the federal cost paid for the interest of the United States of America and that, in the event of a failure of title, as determined by a court of competent jurisdiction, and payment of insurance to the state, the state will reimburse the United States for the amount of the federal cost paid.

      (j) The commissioner, when acquiring the development rights of any agricultural lands on behalf of the state, may incorporate deed requirements in accordance with the provisions of the federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, 7 CFR 1491.1, et seq.

      (P.A. 78-232, S. 3, 11; P.A. 79-208, S. 1, 2; P.A. 80-349, S. 2, 5; P.A. 81-151, S. 1, 3; 81-156, S. 2; P.A. 82-34, S. 1, 2; P.A. 86-16, S. 1, 2; 86-135, S. 1; 86-314, S. 1, 2; P.A. 87-184; P.A. 88-75, S. 2, 3; P.A. 95-250, S. 1; P.A. 96-211, S. 1, 5, 6; P.A. 97-171, S. 1, 2; 97-234, S. 2; June 30 Sp. Sess. P.A. 03-6, S. 146(e), (f); P.A. 04-189, S. 1; P.A. 05-124, S. 4; 05-288, S. 222.)

      History: P.A. 79-208 inserted new Subdiv. (4) in Subsec. (a) requiring consideration of encumbrances on land in determining whether to obtain development rights, renumbering and restating former Subdiv. (4), required notification of departments of transportation and economic development and of office of policy and management that land is being appraised, substituted appraisal obtained by owner and performed in manner approved by environmental protection department for "independent" appraisal and added Subsec. (d) re payment of purchase price in installments; P.A. 80-349 deleted "pilot", qualifying nature of program, and required approval of state properties review board for acquisition of development rights in Subsec. (a); P.A. 81-151 amended Subsec. (a) by authorizing the commissioner to accept gifts of development rights and by giving him discretion in the purchase price for such rights; P.A. 81-156 required use of the state plan of conservation and development as an advisory document in development rights requisition; P.A. 82-34 amended Subsec. (a) to require filing of notice of the offer with the town clerk, to specify that transfer of land does not affect offer unless new owner revokes the offer in writing and to make land owned by a nonprofit organization authorized to hold land for conservation and preservation purposes eligible for the program; P.A. 86-16 amended Subsec. (a) by making probability that land will be sold for nonagricultural purposes one of the factors considered in the acquisition of development rights rather than the major factor; P.A. 86-135 added Subsec. (e) authorizing joint ownership by the state and towns; P.A. 86-314 amended Subsec. (a) by adding Subdiv. (7) regarding mitigation of damage due to flood hazards and transferred responsibility of obtaining appraisals from the commissioner of environmental protection to the commissioner of agriculture; P.A. 87-184 amended Subsec. (a) to stipulate that the use or presence of chemicals does not diminish the agricultural value of the land and added Subsec. (f) regarding state liability for pollution; P.A. 88-75 (1) amended Subsec. (a) to provide for determination by the commissioner of the value of the property for agricultural purposes rather than as "provided by section 12-63", (2) amended Subsec. (c) by requiring notification to the commissioner if restricted land is to be sold and (3) added Subsecs. (g) and (h) re cooperation with nonprofit organizations in acquiring development rights and re commissioner's acceptance of owners' rights to build structures on land; P.A. 95-250 and P.A. 96-211 replaced Commissioner and Department of Economic Development with Commissioner and Department of Economic and Community Development; P.A. 97-171 added new Subsec. (i) re provisions in agreements with the federal government in connection with disbursement of certain federal moneys for acquisition of land under this section, effective June 24, 1997; P.A. 97-234 amended Subsec. (c) to make technical and grammatical changes and to specify that any removal of the restriction on development under this section shall require payment to the commissioner of the value of the development rights; June 30 Sp. Sess. P.A. 03-6 replaced Commissioner and Department of Agriculture with Commissioner and Department of Agriculture and Consumer Protection, effective July 1, 2004; P.A. 04-189 repealed Sec. 146 of June 30 Sp. Sess. P.A. 03-6, thereby reversing the merger of the Departments of Agriculture and Consumer Protection, effective June 1, 2004; P.A. 05-124 made technical changes in Subsecs. (a) and (c), made a technical change and permitted commissioner to enter into joint ownership agreements to aquire development rights to qualified agricultural land with any nonprofit organization, provided mission of such organization is permanent protection of agricultural land for purposes of continued agricultural use in Subsec. (g), and permitted commissioner to incorporate deed requirements in accordance with federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program in new Subsec. (j); P.A. 05-288 made technical changes in Subsec. (b), effective July 13, 2005.

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      Sec. 22-26hh. State bonds authorized for purposes of this chapter. The State Bond Commission shall have power, from time to time, to authorize the issuance of bonds of the state in one or more series and in principal amounts not exceeding in the aggregate one hundred seven million seven hundred fifty thousand dollars, the proceeds of which shall be used for the purposes of section 22-26cc, provided not more than ten million dollars of said authorization shall be effective July 1, 2006, and further provided not more than two million dollars shall be used for the purposes of section 22-26jj. All provisions of section 3-20, or the exercise of any right or power granted thereby which are not inconsistent with the provisions of this section are hereby adopted and shall apply to all bonds authorized by the State Bond Commission pursuant to this section, and temporary notes in anticipation of the money to be derived from the sale of any such bonds so authorized may be issued in accordance with said section 3-20 and from time to time renewed. Such bonds shall mature at such time or times not exceeding twenty years from their respective dates as may be provided in or pursuant to the resolution or resolutions of the State Bond Commission authorizing such bonds. None of said bonds shall be authorized except upon a finding by the State Bond Commission that there has been filed with it a request for such authorization, which is signed by or on behalf of the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management and states such terms and conditions as said commission, in its discretion, may require. Said bonds issued pursuant to this section shall be general obligations of the state and the full faith and credit of the state of Connecticut are pledged for the payment of the principal of and interest on said bonds as the same become due, and accordingly and as part of the contract of the state with the holders of said bonds, appropriation of all amounts necessary for punctual payment of such principal and interest is hereby made, and the Treasurer shall pay such principal and interest as the same become due.

      (P.A. 78-232, S. 10, 11; P.A. 79-499; P.A. 80-441, S. 1, 4; P.A. 81-370, S. 6, 13; P.A. 82-369, S. 9, 28; June Sp. Sess. P.A. 83-33, S. 10, 17; P.A. 84-443, S. 11, 20; 84-546, S. 65, 173; P.A. 85-558, S. 13, 17; P.A. 86-396, S. 18, 25; P.A. 87-405, S. 18, 26; P.A. 88-343, S. 12, 32; P.A. 89-331, S. 19, 30; P.A. 90-297, S. 11, 24; May Sp. Sess. P.A. 92-7, S. 13, 36; June Sp. Sess. P.A. 93-1, S. 11, 45; P.A. 95-272, S. 10, 29; P.A. 96-181, S. 107, 121; P.A. 97-234, S. 7; June 5 Sp. Sess. P.A. 97-1, S. 14, 20; P.A. 98-259, S. 10, 17; P.A. 99-241, S. 12, 66; P.A. 00-203, S. 10, 11; June Sp. Sess. P.A. 00-1, S. 24, 46; June Sp. Sess. P.A. 01-7, S. 5, 28; June Sp. Sess. P.A. 01-9, S. 94, 131; May Sp. Sess. P.A. 04-1, S. 19; June Sp. Sess. P.A. 05-5, S. 9.)

      History: P.A. 79-499 increased bond authorization from five million fifty thousand dollars to seven million fifty thousand dollars; P.A. 80-441 increased bond authorization to nine million fifty thousand dollars; P.A. 81-370 increased the aggregate of bonds the bond commission may authorize for purposes of chapter 422a from nine million fifty thousand to nine million two hundred fifty thousand dollars; P.A. 82-369 increased bond authorization from $9,250,000 to $9,750,000; June Sp. Sess. P.A. 83-33 increased bond authorization to fourteen million seven hundred fifty thousand dollars; P.A. 84-443 increased authorization limit to nineteen million seven hundred fifty thousand dollars; P.A. 84-546 made technical change, substituting reference to Sec. 22-26dd for reference to Sec. 22-210dd; P.A. 85-558 increased the bond authorization limit to twenty-two million seven hundred fifty thousand dollars; P.A. 86-396 increased bond authorization from twenty-two million seven hundred fifty thousand dollars to twenty-eight million seven hundred fifty thousand dollars; P.A. 87-405 increased the bond authorization from twenty-eight million seven hundred fifty thousand dollars to thirty-six million seven hundred fifty thousand dollars; P.A. 88-343 increased the bond authorization from thirty-six million seven hundred fifty thousand dollars to forty-four million seven hundred fifty thousand dollars; P.A. 89-331 increased the bond authorization from forty-four million seven hundred fifty thousand dollars to fifty-two million seven hundred fifty thousand dollars; P.A. 90-297 increased the bond authorization from fifty-two million seven hundred fifty thousand dollars to sixty-two million seven hundred fifty thousand dollars and required that the secretary of office of policy and management rather than agriculture commissioner sign authorization request; May Sp. Sess. P.A. 92-7 increased the bond authorization from sixty-two million seven hundred fifty thousand dollars to sixty-six million two hundred fifty thousand dollars and set forth a limit of two million dollars of that amount for Sec. 22-26jj; June Sp. Sess. P.A. 93-1 amended section to increase bond authorization from sixty-six million two hundred fifty thousand dollars to seventy-six million two hundred fifty thousand dollars, effective July 1, 1993, provided five million dollars of said authorization shall be effective July 1, 1994; P.A. 95-272 increased authorization amount from seventy-six million two hundred fifty thousand dollars to eighty-two million two hundred fifty thousand dollars, effective July 1, 1995, provided three million dollars shall be effective July 1, 1996; P.A. 96-181 decreased aggregate amount from $82,250,000 to $78,250,000 and removed proviso re amount effective July 1, 1996, effective July 1, 1996; P.A. 97-234 deleted reference to repealed Sec. 22-26ee; June 5 Sp. Sess. P.A. 97-1 increased bond authorization from seventy-eight million two hundred fifty thousand dollars to eighty million two hundred fifty thousand dollars provided one million dollars is effective July 1, 1998, effective July 31, 1997; P.A. 98-259 increased authorization from $80,250,000 to $82,750,000 provided $3,500,000 of said authorization was effective July 1, 1998, deleted proviso re use for purposes of Sec. 22-26dd and made technical change, effective July 1, 1998; P.A. 99-241 increased authorization from $82,750,000 to $83,750,000, effective July 1, 1999; P.A. 00-203 designated existing language as Subsec. (a) and added new Subsec. (b) requiring the State Bond Commission to authorize issuance of balance of bonds previously authorized but not allocated, effective June 7, 2000, and applicable to all open space land donations made on or after the income year commencing January 1, 1999; June Sp. Sess. P.A. 00-1 repealed said Subsec. (b), effective June 21, 2000; June Sp. Sess. P.A. 01-7 increased authorization from $83,750,000 to $87,750,000 provided $2,000,000 is effective July 1, 2002, effective July 1, 2001; June Sp. Sess. P.A. 01-9 changed "section 22-26dd" to "section 22-26cc", effective July 1, 2001; May Sp. Sess. P.A. 04-1 increased bond authorization to $89,750,000 and made $2,000,000 of said authorization effective July 1, 2004, effective July 1, 2004; June Sp. Sess. P.A. 05-5 increased the aggregate authorization from $89,750,000 to $107,750,000, of which $10,000,000 is effective July 1, 2006, effective July 1, 2005.

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      Sec. 22-26jj. Acquisition of fee simple title to agricultural lands. Lease of property. (a) The Commissioner of Agriculture, with the approval of the State Properties Review Board, may acquire by purchase or accept as a gift, on behalf of the state, the fee simple title of any agricultural real property and any personal property related to such real property, including, but not limited to, machinery, equipment, fixtures and livestock. The state conservation and development plan established pursuant to chapter 297 shall be used as an advisory document in connection with acquisition of such property. The commissioner, in deciding whether or not to acquire such property, shall consider all of the factors stated in section 22-26cc and shall further consider the likelihood of subsequent sale of such property by the department for agricultural purposes, subject to the state's retention of development rights. After a preliminary evaluation of such factors, the Commissioner of Agriculture shall obtain and review one or more fee appraisals of the property in order to determine the value of such property. Each such appraisal shall include an itemization of (1) the total value of the land, (2) the value of the land as agricultural land, (3) the value of the development rights of the land, and (4) the value of any related personal property proposed to be included in any sale. The commissioner shall give notice of any such appraisal to the Departments of Transportation, Economic and Community Development and Environmental Protection and the Office of Policy and Management. Any such appraisal may be obtained by the owner of the property and, if performed in a manner approved by the commissioner, shall be considered by the commissioner in making such determination. The commissioner may purchase such property for a lesser price than any price suggested by any such appraisal provided all considerations for acquisition specified in this subsection are taken into account. In determining the value of the property, consideration shall be given to sales of comparable properties in the general vicinity.

      (b) After the acquisition of the fee simple title of any agricultural real property and any related personal property, the commissioner shall sell such property, exclusive of any development rights, for agricultural purposes as soon as practicable. The state shall retain any development rights. The commissioner may lease or otherwise transfer, assign or manage such property for agricultural, open space or other qualified purposes, in accordance with subsection (d) of this section, until such time as a sale as required by this section is completed.

      (c) The commissioner may lease all or part of one property acquired by him under this section as part of a demonstration project, in accordance with subsection (d) of this section, provided such project is approved by the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management. Such property may be leased to one or more agricultural users for a period not to exceed five years. Such lease may be renewed for periods not to exceed five years. Any property leased under such demonstration project shall be exempt from taxation by the municipality in which the property is located. The assessed valuation of the property shall be included with the assessed valuation of state-owned land and buildings for purposes of determining the state's grant in lieu of taxes under the provisions of section 12-19a.

      (d) No contract to sell, lease or otherwise transfer, assign or manage such property for agricultural, open space or other qualified purposes shall be entered into by the commissioner unless there has been a finding of the State Treasurer that such contract will preserve the exclusion from federal taxation, if any, of the interest on the bonds of the state issued to finance such acquisition. Any proceeds derived from any such contract shall not be deemed revenues of the General Fund and shall be deposited in the appropriate bond proceeds account. Any such proceeds shall be applied, upon allotment thereof, to acquisition of additional agricultural real property and related personal property or, upon approval of the State Bond Commission, for such other authorized capital purposes which the State Treasurer finds will best assure the preservation of such exclusion from federal taxation, if any, including payment of the principal, redemption price, if any, or interest on the bonds issued for the purchase of the agricultural property.

      (May Sp. Sess. P.A. 92-7, S. 15, 36; P.A. 93-150, S. 1, 2; P.A. 95-96; 95-250, S. 1; P.A. 96-211, S. 1, 5, 6; June 30 Sp. Sess. P.A. 03-6, S. 146(e); P.A. 04-189, S. 1; P.A. 05-228, S. 1; June Sp. Sess. P.A. 05-3, S. 113.)

      History: P.A. 93-150 extended the commissioner's authority to acquire title to property under this section until July 1, 1995, effective June 11, 1993; P.A. 95-96 relettered former Subsec. (c) as (d) and inserted a new Subsec. (c) re lease of property acquired under this section; P.A. 95-250 and P.A. 96-211 replaced Commissioner and Department of Economic Development with Commissioner and Department of Economic and Community Development; June 30 Sp. Sess. P.A. 03-6 replaced Commissioner of Agriculture with Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Protection, effective July 1, 2004; P.A. 04-189 repealed Sec. 146 of June 30 Sp. Sess. P.A. 03-6, thereby reversing the merger of the Departments of Agriculture and Consumer Protection, effective June 1, 2004; P.A. 05-228 amended Subsec. (a) by extending commissioner's authority to acquire title to property under section after July 1, 1995, and by making a technical change, effective July 1, 2005; June Sp. Sess. P.A. 05-3 changed effective date of P.A. 05-228 to October 1, 2005, effective June 30, 2005.

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