About the Program
The Current Use Program is a means of encouraging the preservation of open space and the conservation of our natural resources. It is also a way to reduce taxes for qualifying properties. In return for agreeing not to develop their land, an owner will receive a substantially reduced assessed value on their property. This agreement is recorded at the county registry and actually constitutes a lien on the property. When the ownership of property enrolled in Current Use is changed, the land still remains under Current Use status. There is no "buy-out." If the land is subdivided or developed so that it no longer qualifies, however, that portion which does not qualify is removed from the program, and a lien release tax is assessed to the present owner, based on 10% of the current market value. The property, or portion thereof, is subsequently assessed relative to market value beginning in the next tax year.
Open Space Land
Open space land in Current Use imposes few, if any, costs on local government, and is, therefore, an economic benefit to its citizens and contributes to the stability of the tax rate. There is a 10 acre minimum (except for wetlands) to enroll in Current Use. The areas needed to support any and all buildings, driveways, septic system, underground utilities, and other improvements must be excluded, as well as the area kept groomed as a lawn. The deadline for applications is April 15th. There is a detailed NH Current Use Criteria Booklet available, which is highly recommended. For more information, go to the NH Department of Revenue. If you have purchased property which was already in Current Use and you are unfamiliar with the program, I recommend you read the booklet so you understand your rights and responsibilities.
Land Protection Tool
The Current Use Program, however, is not a permanent land protection tool. If you wish to ensure your land remains protected for future generations, the sale or donation of development rights through a Conservation Easement is probably the most economical, proven, long-term method available. Conservation easements may be conveyed to Bow Open Spaces, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, the NH Department of Agriculture, the New England Forestry Foundation, the Trust for Public Land, the Nature Conservancy, and other non-profit groups. Please contact the Bow Conservation Commission or the organization of your choice for more information.