Spring 2010 pg3

Featured Cover Artist: Victoria Ryan

The Hideaway by Victoria Ryan
The Hideaway by Victoria Ryan

Eureka – based artist Victoria Ryan’s stunning pastel landscapes have become some of the most sought after works of fine art across North America and internationally. Collectors and admirers are drawn to Ryan’s use of color and light and her ability to transform the way we perceive even the most subtle and overlooked landscape details by portraying the true visual poetry that lies within them.

Ryan studied art at Otis Art Institute, Art Center College of Design and the highly regarded California State University at Long Beach Fine Arts Department, where she earned a B.F.A. in Painting and Drawing in 1982. Her works were immediately noticed by curators and collectors alike for her dynamic and inspiring palette, her unique approach to landscape painting, and her mastery of technique which she attributes to her traditional academic training in the arts and her respect for the formal elements of craftsmanship. These attributes give her art a timeless quality.

Ryan’s current focus is working with soft pastels on various archival surfaces. She states that nothing compares to the richness in color that can be achieved with the medium of soft pastel or provide her with the level of spontaneity that they provide her.

A very special “thank you” to Victoria for graciously allowing us to reprint her work here. To see more of Victoria’s work or to commission your own painting contact her at www.victoriaryan.com.


The Williamson Act: Voluntary Land Use Contract

by Bill Bertain

The Williamson Act, passed into California law in 1965, empowered local governments that have a General Plan to create agricultural preserves within which they can write contracts with the landowners in order to stem the tide of agricultural land being lost to development. Counties were previously empowered to rely on police power restrictions. The Williamson Act introduced the use of voluntary contract restrictions to help solve this problem.

The legislature perceived that at least one cause of this problem was the property tax system: taxing land on the basis of its market value compels the owner to put the land to the use for which it is valued by the market. In response the Williamson Act employs a two-step strategy to conserve agricultural land. The local government first establishes agricultural preserves, and second executes contracts with willing landowners. There can be land within these preserves that is under contract and land within the preserve that is not under contract. There can also be multiple landowners within the preserve and any individual landowner within the preserve can have land under contract and land not under contract.

A proposal to establish an agricultural preserve must be submitted to the Planning Department or the Planning Commission of the County. After receiving the proposal the Planning Department and/or the Planning Commission must submit a report to the Board of Supervisors that the preserve is consistent with the General Plan and the Board must make a finding to that effect. It is quite clear that at its establishment the agricultural preserve must be consistent with the General Plan.

A Staff Report to the Joint Committee on Open Space Lands, written by John C Williamson Executive Director and author of the Williamson Act, states in part: “These preserves are like conventional zones in that they are an exercise of the planning function and express an intention to limit the use of prescribed land to agriculture. However, establishment of a preserve is not an exercise of the police power as is the establishment of a zone. It carries with it no sanction whatever. The purpose and effect of the preserve is to delineate the area within which local government intends to offer contracts.”

Land under contract may be freely sold and divided. Where only part of the parcel is sold, it is, of course, subject to the terms of the original contract. The buyer is given a duplicate contract covering his land only, and he henceforth deals with the county independent of the grantor.

There has been quite a lot of misinterpretation of the Williamson Act during the last decade. Many articles and letters have been published, including an editorial that appeared in the Times-Standard, that clearly misinterprets the legislative intent, what exactly the Williamson Act was created to prevent and how it was to work. Little research was done in preparation of these printings and it is obvious that the authors did not take the effort to find out the correctness of their opinions. If they had investigated they would have found out one very important item and that is there was never any prohibition on selling land that was under a Williamson Act contract. Any sale, however, must satisfy two important things. First, it must comply with all State laws and local ordinances and secondly, the land must be kept in agricultural production.

The burden that the landowner takes on under these contracts is simply to keep the land in agricultural production. In return the landowner receives a lower tax which is intended to induce the landowner to continue farming or ranching and not sell out to the march of commercial or residential development.

Williamson Act contracts run with the land not the owner. The owners have voluntarily contracted their land. When and if that land is sold, whole or in part, the land sold retains the contract and the new owner deals with the county on that land independent of any other owner.

These contracts are for an initial term of not less than 10 years. Many of the contracts written in Humboldt County contain this paragraph:
“This contract shall be effective on the date first written above, hereinafter the anniversary date, and shall remain in effect and shall be for an initial term of ten (10) years. On the first anniversary date and on each succeeding anniversary date, one year shall automatically be added to the unexpired term unless notice of non-renewal is given.”

Either the County or the landowner can non-renew the contract. If the landowner wishes to non-renew the contract he must declare so at least 90 days before the anniversary date or the contract will be renewed for one more year thereby keeping a rolling 10-year contract. If the County wishes to non-renew they must declare 60 days before the anniversary date. If the County would like the landowner to non-renew and the landowner does not do so then the County can step in during this 30-day window and non-renew the contract. Once the contract is non-renewed it runs out over the next nine years as that contract exists, unaffected by any current or subsequent changes.

Landowners need stability in ownership attributes. Estate planning, successional inheritance of the family business and financial planning are but a few significant areas in which uncertainty or unforeseen changes can drastically impact years of careful planning and stewardship. Family farmers and ranchers need the Williamson Act contract to be a document upon which they can depend and to which they can entrust their family’s future.


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