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Volume 6 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 44

Opinions of Counsel index

Agricultural exemption (scope) (solid waste disposal district); Farm structures and buildings exemption (scope) (special ad valorem levies and special assessments) - Agriculture and Markets Law, § 305; Real Property Tax Law, §§ 102(14), 102(15), 483:

Land located within an agricultural district and eligible for an agricultural value assessment is exempt from certain benefit assessments or special ad valorem levies imposed subsequent to the formation of the district. Structures eligible for a farm buildings and structures exemption are not exempt from benefit assessments or special ad valorem levies even when located in an agricultural district.

Our opinion has been sought concerning the scope of the agricultural exemption granted by Article 25AA of the Agriculture and Markets Law (Agricultural Districts Law) and the farm buildings and structures exemption granted by section 483 of the Real Property Tax Law, as well as the relationship between these two laws. The specific issue is whether a structure benefiting from a farm structure and buildings exemption is also exempt from a solid waste disposal district assessment due to its location within an agricultural district.

An exemption from certain benefit assessments and special ad valorem levies for agricultural lands located in an agricultural district is provided by subdivision 5 of section 305 of Article 25AA of the Agriculture and Markets Law. That subdivision reads as follows:

Limitation on power to impose benefit assessments or special ad valorem levies in certain improvement districts or benefit areas. Within improvement districts or areas deemed benefited by town improvements for sewer, water, lighting, non-farm drainage, solid waste disposal or other landfill operations, no benefit assessments or special ad valorem levies may be imposed on land used primarily for agricultural production within an agricultural district on the basis of frontage, acreage or value, except a lot not exceeding one-half acre surrounding any dwelling or non-farm structure located on said land unless such benefit assessments or ad valorem levies were imposed prior to the formation of the agricultural district.

Accordingly, if land eligible for an agricultural value assessment lies within an agricultural district, the eligible agricultural land is exempt from special district levies and assessments for, among other purposes, “solid waste disposal,” so long as these charges were imposed after the formation of the agricultural district.

Section 483 of the Real Property Tax Law provides, in part, that eligible structures are “exempt from taxation to the extent of any increase in value thereof by reason of...construction or reconstruction for a period of ten years.” (emphasis supplied) This exemption applies to “taxation,” that is, to property taxes or charges imposed by or “on behalf of a county, city, town village or school district for municipal or school district purposes”(Real Property Tax Law, §102(20); see also, 1 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 96). It does not, however, apply to special ad valorem levies or special assessments levied for special district purposes since there is a distinction between a “tax” and a “special assessment” or “special ad valorem levy” (Real Property Tax Law, §§102(20), 102(15), 102(14), respectively; see also, 4 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 14).

The Agricultural Districts Law was intended to protect agricultural lands (Agriculture and Markets Law, §300). It provides for agricultural value assessments for certain land suitable for and used in agricultural production, not for structures used in agricultural production. The farm structure exemption was intended to encourage agricultural production by granting a partial exemption to structures essential to the operation of certain agricultural lands.

Thus, a single agricultural operation might contain land which would be exempt from solid waste disposal charges and structures which would not be so exempt. The mere fact that a single tract of land is benefited by two separate exemption statutes does not mean that the portions benefited by each enjoy the full benefits of both.

March 9, 1979

NOTE:  But see L.1990, c.698.

Updated: