§ 44-27-4. Classification of forest land.
(a) An owner of not less than ten (10) acres of forest land may file a written application with the director of environmental management for its designation by the director as forest land. When the application is made and a filing fee of ten dollars ($10.00) is paid, the director shall examine the land and, if the director determines that it is forest land, the director shall issue a certificate in his or her office, furnish a copy to the owner of the land, and file a copy in the office of the assessor of the city or town where the land is located.
(b)(1) When requested to do so by the assessor or whenever the director deems it necessary, the director of environmental management shall re-examine land designated by him or her as forest land. If the director finds that the land is no longer forest land or if the director finds that the land is not being managed in accordance with the forest management plan approved by the director, he or she shall send a notice to the landowner that the landowner has thirty (30) days either to bring the land into compliance or to request a formal hearing before the director. If after the thirty (30) days or after the hearing, the director confirms that the land is no longer forest land, the director shall issue a certificate canceling his or her designation of the land as forest land and shall furnish one copy to the owner and shall file one copy in the office of the assessor.
(2) Loss of designation by action of the director of environmental management makes the land subject to the land use change tax provided for in § 44-5-39.
(c)(1) An owner of land designated as forest land by the director of environmental management may apply for its classification as forest land on any assessment list of the city or town where it is located by filing a written application for the classification with the assessor of the city or town not earlier than thirty (30) days before nor later than thirty (30) days after the date of assessment, except that in years of revaluation not later than thirty (30) days after written notice of revaluation or in its absence after receipt of the tax bill. If the director has not cancelled his or her designation of the land as forest land as of a date at or prior to the date of the assessment, the assessor shall classify the land as forest land and include the land as forest land on the assessment list.
(2) In order to maintain this classification, each year thereafter, the property owner shall submit to the assessor a certificate on a form prescribed by the assessor confirming that the land is still managed as forest land. The assessor shall in the first notification mail these forms by first class mail not later than November thirtieth and if a second notification is needed, it shall be mailed certified. Failure to submit the certificate by thirty (30) days after the date of assessment is construed as voluntary withdrawal of the classification; except that the assessor may waive this requirement for good cause.
(3) Notwithstanding the preceding subsections, whenever the owner of land designated and classified as forest land is a municipal land trust, municipal conservation commission, or private non-profit land trust, annual certification is not required, and the classification continues until the voluntary withdrawal of the classification by the owner or transfer of the land by the owner in fee simple.
(d) Application to the director of environmental management for designation of land as forest land shall be made upon a form prescribed by the director and shall present a description of the land and any other information that he or she may require to aid the director in determining whether the land qualifies for that designation, including a written forest management plan prepared by a professionally qualified forester on the director's staff or another professionally qualified forester in consultation with the landowner, with recommended management practices to be followed. An application to an assessor for classification of land as forest land shall be made on a form prescribed by the assessor and shall present a description of the land and the date of the issuance by the director of his or her certificate designating it as forest land.
(e) Failure to file an application for classification of land as forest land within the time limit prescribed in subsection (c) of this section and in the manner and form prescribed in subsection (d) of this section is considered a waiver of the right to that classification on the assessment lists.
(f) Any landowner aggrieved by: (1) the cancellation of a designation under subsection (b) of this section or the denial of an application, filed in accordance with the provisions of subsections (c) and (d) of this section, by the assessor of a city or town for a classification of land as forest land; or (2) the use value assessment placed on land classified as forest land by the assessor; has the right to file an appeal within ninety (90) days of receiving notice, in writing, of the denial or the use value assessment with the board of assessment review of the city or town. Should the city or town not have a board of assessment review, the city or town council shall review the appeal. The assessor is given the opportunity to explain either his or her refusal to classify the land or the assessment placed on the classified land. The board of review, or city or town council, shall also consider the testimony of the landowner and the city or town's planning board and conservation commission, if they exist. They shall also seek and consider the advice of the office of state planning, the department of environmental management, the dean of the college of resource development and the conservation district in which the city or town is located.
(g)(1) The board of assessment review, or city or town council, shall not disturb the designation of the director issued pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, unless the tax assessor has shown by a preponderance of the evidence that that designation was erroneous.
(2) The board of assessment review, or city or town council, shall render a decision within forty-five (45) days of the date of filing the appeal. Decisions of the board of assessment review, or city or town council, may be appealed to the superior court pursuant to the provisions of § 44-27-6.
(P.L. 1980, ch. 252, § 2; P.L. 1986, ch. 73, § 1; P.L. 1990, ch. 339, § 2; P.L. 2013, ch. 303, § 1; P.L. 2013, ch. 430, § 1.)