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Subject 391-3-18 RULES FOR CERTIFICATION OF ENVIRONMENTALLY SENSITIVE PROPERTY

Rule 391-3-18-.01 Purpose

The purpose of these rules is to establish the procedures for certification of environmentally sensitive property for purposes of ad valorem taxation for conservation use, in accordance with O.C.G.A. Sec. 48-5-7.4(a)(2). These rules are also designed to complement the Department of Revenue's Rules for Conservation Use Property, Chapter 560-11-6.

Rule 391-3-18-.02 Definitions

All terms used in this rule chapter shall be interpreted in accordance with the definitions as set forth in O.C.G.A. Sec. 48-5-7.4 and Rule Chapter 560-11-6.

(1) "Department" means the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
(2) "Maintenance in its natural condition" means to manage the land in such a manner that would not ruin, erode, harm, damage, or spoil the nature, distinctiveness, identity, appearance, utility or function that originally characterized the property as environmentally sensitive under O.C.G.A. Section 48-5-7.4(a)(2).
(3) "Primary use" means the principal use to which the property is devoted, as distinct from an incidental, occasional, intermediate or temporary use for some other purpose not detrimental to or in conflict with its primary purpose.

Rule 391-3-18-.03 Environmentally Sensitive Property

(1) Environmentally sensitive property includes real property that meets the definition of one or more categories of paragraph (2) and where the primary use of such property is:
(a) for categories (2)(a) through (2)(f), maintenance in its natural condition; or
(b) for categories (2)(a) through (2)(c), enhancing the water quality of surface or ground waters; or
(c) for category (2)(g), controlling or abating pollution of surface or ground waters by storm water runoff or otherwise enhancing the water quality of surface or ground waters.
(2) In accordance with O.C.G.A. § 48-5-7.4(a)(2), the categories of environmentally sensitive property are:
(a) Mountainous Terrain, defined as any land area 1,000 feet or more above the lowest elevation of the county in which such area is located that has a percentage slope of 25 percent or greater, including the crests, summits, and ridge tops which lie at elevations higher than any such area;
(b) Wetland areas that are determined by the United States Army Corps of Engineers to be wetlands under their jurisdiction pursuant to Section 404 of the federal Clean Water Act, as amended, or wetland areas that are depicted or delineated on maps compiled by the Department or the United States Fish and Wildlife Service pursuant to its National Wetlands Inventory Program;
(c) Significant groundwater recharge areas as identified on maps or data compiled by the Department;
(d) Undeveloped barrier islands or portions thereof as provided for in the federal Coastal Barrier Resources Act, as amended;
(e) Habitats certified by the Department as containing species that have been listed as either endangered or threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended;
(f) River or stream corridors or buffers which shall be defined as those undeveloped lands which are:
1. Adjacent to rivers and perennial streams that are within the 100 year flood plain as depicted on official maps prepared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency; or
2. Within buffer zones adjacent to rivers or perennial streams, which buffer zones are established by law or local ordinance and within which land-disturbing activity is prohibited; and
(g) Constructed storm-water wetlands of the free-water surface type certified by the Department under O.C.G.A. § 12-2-4(k) and approved for such use by the local governing authority.

Rule 391-3-18-.04 Procedures for Certification of Environmentally Sensitive Property

(1) Property owners who wish to have all or portions of their property certified as environmentally sensitive for tax assessment purposes must submit the information set forth below using an application form provided by the Department.
(a) The qualifying property must be owned by an entity meeting the ownership requirements of O.C.G.A. § 48-5-7.4(a)(1)(C).
(b) The application for certification must include a property map or survey providing the total acreage of the owner's property and showing the property boundaries. The total acreage and boundaries should correspond to the records maintained by the county tax assessor.
(c) The application for certification must also include a map identifying those portions of the property that the applicant believes meets one or more of the categories in paragraphs (3) through (9).
(2) In order for the Department to verify the primary use of those portions of the property identified in paragraph (1)(c), the property owner must provide a written statement regarding the primary use of those portions of the property. Where appropriate, the Department may also require photographic documentation.
(a) Where the primary use is maintenance in its natural condition, as defined in 391-3-18-.02(2), the written statement should indicate how long those portions of the property have been undisturbed and how they have been and will be managed. The written statement should include as much historical information as is available to the property owner.
(b) Where the primary use is enhancing the water quality of surface or ground waters, the written statement should describe how the use of those portions of the property enhance the water quality of surface or ground waters. Any measures being taken to reduce, control or eliminate pollution should be described.
(c) For the constructed storm water wetlands category of paragraph (9), the applicant should provide a signed statement from an authorized employee or agent of the local governing authority that, pursuant to Rule 560-11-6-.04(5), they have inspected the site and determined that the property is being used for controlling or abating pollution of surface or ground waters of this state by storm-water runoff or by otherwise enhancing the water quality of surface or ground waters.
(3) Mountainous Terrain. For this category, the property owner must provide:
(a) a map showing the elevations on the property and indicating the areas of the property that meet or exceed the minimum elevations for that county that are designated on the application form provided by the Department;
(b) an identification on the map of the areas above the minimum elevations where the percentage slope is 25 percent or greater, measured as the difference in elevation between two points 500 feet apart divided by the horizontal distance between those two points; and
(c) an identification on the map of any crests, summits, or ridge tops that lie at elevations higher than the areas identified in (b); and
(d) the total acreage of those portions of the property identified under (b) and (c).
(4) Wetlands. For this category, the property owner must provide one of the following:
(a) A map identifying those portions of the property containing wetlands, as depicted on maps compiled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pursuant to its National Wetlands Inventory Program, and the total acreage for those portions of the property containing wetlands. The Fish and Wildlife Service maintains an online Wetlands Mapper tool that depicts wetlands included in the National Wetlands Inventory.
(b) A map identifying those portions of the property containing wetlands, as depicted on maps compiled by the Department, and the total acreage for those portions of the property containing wetlands.
(c) A map identifying those portions of the property containing wetlands, as determined by the United States Army Corps of Engineers pursuant to a jurisdictional determination completed under Section 404 of the federal Clean Water Act, and the total acreage for those portions of the property containing wetlands. An expired jurisdictional determination will be considered, as long as the property owner can attest that the area included in the jurisdictional determination has not been disturbed.
(5) Significant groundwater recharge areas. For this category, the property owner must provide a map identifying those portions of the property containing significant groundwater recharge areas, as depicted on the digital version of Hydrologic Atlas 18 (HA-18) that is available from the Department, and the total acreage for those portions of the property.
(6) Undeveloped barrier islands. For this category, the property owner must provide a map identifying those portions of the property that are identified as undeveloped barrier islands by the federal Coastal Barrier Resources Act, as amended, and the total acreage for those portions of the property. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service maintains an online Coastal Barrier Resources System Mapper tool that depicts the undeveloped barrier islands identified in the Act.
(7) Habitats for federal endangered or threatened species. For this category, the property owner must make a site-specific request to the Department for information regarding the occurrence of federal endangered or threatened species on those portions of the property that are and will remain undisturbed. The property owner should follow the instructions for making a site-specific request that are included on the application form provided by the Department.
(8) River or stream corridors or buffers. For this category, the property owner must provide a map identifying the undeveloped areas of the property that meet the requirements of (a) or (b) and the total acreage for those portions of the property.
(a) Undeveloped areas adjacent to rivers and perennial streams that are within the 100 year flood plain, as depicted on maps prepared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The Department maintains an online Georgia Flood Map Program that identifies 1% annual chance flood zones that correspond to the 100 year flood plain.
(b) Undeveloped areas within buffer zones adjacent to rivers or perennial streams, which buffer zones are established under the Erosion and Sedimentation Act, O.C.G.A. Secs. 12-7-1 et seq., or by local ordinance. Where the buffer zone is established by local ordinance, the property owner should include a reference to the applicable local ordinance.
(9) Constructed storm water wetlands. For this category, the property owner must provide a plat of the property prepared by a licensed land surveyor, in accordance with Rule 560-11-6-.03(e), showing the location and measured area of the constructed storm water wetlands.