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J.E. “Sam” Ryan, CBO

5280 Northwest Drive
Bellingham, Washington 98226
Telephone: (360) 676-6907


Long Range Planning - Open Space


The following are general questions and guidelines of Whatcom County's Open Space Program RCW 84.34 (Current Use).

Applications may be made for the following classifications:
  • Open Space Land
  • Open Space Timber Land
  • Open Space Farm and Agriculture Conservation Land
Forms are available here or at Whatcom County Planning and Development Services or at the Assessor´s Office.  The Assessor administers the County´s Open Space Farm and Agriculture program.  Forms and information for this classification, as well as further explanation of the Open Space program are available at the Whatcom County Assessor.
Application Period
Applications may be made for classification at any time during the year from January 1 through December 31.  If approved, current use valuation assessment begins January 1 in the year following the year the application was filed.
Where to Apply
Open Space, Timber, and Farm and Agriculture Conservation classifications are filed with the Planning Division in the Department of Planning and Development Services.
Application Fee
Application fees are established according to the Whatcom County Unified Fee Schedule.

In determining whether an application for this tax status should be approved or disapproved, the Whatcom County Planning Commission will consider the following:
  • Conserve or enhance natural, cultural, or scenic resources
  • Protect streams, stream corridors, wetlands, natural shorelines, and aquifers
  • Protect soils resources and unique or critical wildlife and native plant habitat
  • Promote conservation principles by example or by offering educational opportunities
  • Enhance the value of abutting or neighboring parks, forest, wildlife preserves, nature reservations, or sanctuaries or other open spaces
  • Enhance recreation opportunities
  • Preserve historic and archaeological sites
  • Affect any other factors relevant in weighing benefits to the general welfare of preserving the current use of the property

Length of Time in Classification

When the land is classified as Open Space, it shall not be applied to any other use for a period of not less than ten years unless transferred or reclassified into another current use classification or an early withdrawal penalty shall apply.  The land continues in the Open Space classification after the ten year period until a request for withdrawal is made by the owner, the use of the land no longer complies, or the ownership has changed and the new owner has not signed a Notice of Continuance.

Sale of Open Space Land

When Open Space land is sold, the seller or transferor becomes liable at the time of sale for the additional tax, interest, and penalty unless the new owner(s) signs a Notice of Continuance to keep the property in Open Space.

Contact Information

If you have questions about interlocal agreements, you may contact Erin Osborn of Whatcom County Planning and Development Services at (360) 676-6907 or