Abusing farmland assessment

From the APP:

Pennacchio: Block “gentlemen farmers” from property tax break

U.S. Senate candidate Joseph Pennacchio Monday criticized Republican opponent Dick Zimmer for making use of a property tax break by selling hay from his Hunterdon County home.

Pennacchio pledged to write new laws in the state Senate banning “gentlemen farmers” from the Jersey landscape.

“Here is a guy who is asking to represent the people of New Jersey, yet he takes advantage of them to have them subsidize his estate. That’s unfair, ridiculous and selfish,” said Pennacchio, a Republican state senator from Morris County, at a Statehouse news conference.

Zimmer, a Washington lobbyist who maintains homes in the capital and in Delaware Township, receives a tax break on most of his 24.5-acre Hunterdon County property under a 1964 state law intended to help struggling farmers and preserve farms and open space.

Zimmer’s home is on one acre, assessed at $353,900, on which he paid $7,212 in property taxes last year. His other 23.55 acres are assessed at $8,300, and on that property he paid $169 in taxes in 2007.

The state legislation promised by Pennacchio would mandate anyone getting the tax break live in New Jersey and increase the minimum amount of money gained from the land — needed to become eligible for the break — from $500 a year to $1,250.

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8 Responses to Abusing farmland assessment

  1. grim says:

    In 1964 a new house cost $20,500 and a gallon of milk was 95 cents.

    The $500 minimum was equivalent to 525 gallons of milk. Likewise that minimum represented 2.5% of a new house.

    Today, a gallon of milk costs $3.80, thus the minimum represented as gallons (525) would be just under $2,000. The median sales price of a new home is now hovering around $227,600, the minimum as represented by the percentage of house it would buy, moves up to $5,600.

    Adjusting by the CPI brings $500 (in 1964 dollars) to approximately $3,500 in 2008 dollars.

    The minimum should be set to $3,500 with the necessary provisions added to index for inflation yearly.

  2. NJGator says:

    Grim – I’d go even further. How about only give the farmland assessment to those whose primary income is derived from farming? Or at the very least the “gentleman farmer” should have at least one person employed full-time to run the “farm”.

    Why should Dick Zimmer pay less taxes for his 25 acre retreat than Stu and I pay for our 1/4 acre in Montclair?

    It looks like Frank Lautenberg or Rob Andrews will have nothing to worry about come November.

  3. Shore Guy says:


    This is similar to what I mentioned the other day where John Bon Jovi has a riverfront estate in a very suburban local and a portion of his land has the villa and the other part is considered farm land. Max Weinberg has a similar situation, as do, no doubt many other folks. I suspect that many of the towns agree to the classification because it allows them to state that “x” percentage of the land in town is “farmland.”

    I suggest that you fax your analysis to his district and Trenton office.

  4. Otis Wildflower says:

    Here’s a Q.. Would it be worth buying partial ownership in a cow for a portion of her milk and/or meat?

    Call it “cowsharing”.. Buy 10% interest, pay for 10% of feed and upkeep, get 10% of the milk sort of thing.

  5. marv says:

    Christie Whitman was attacked for having farmland assessment on her property too when she ran for office. She had farm animals and probably hired employees to take care of the farm but that didn’t stop people from criticizing her. People should realize that it is in the state’s interest to allow large tracts of land to remain undeveloped instead of forcing landowners to subdivide for housing development because they cannot afford the taxes. Those who have farmland-assessed land are far from places like Montclair. It’s a whole different world. Housing prices are much lower than in Montclair and few services are provided but taxes are still high out in the country.

  6. grim says:

    People should realize that it is in the state’s interest to allow large tracts of land to remain undeveloped instead of forcing landowners to subdivide for housing development because they cannot afford the taxes

    This legislation you are talking about here already exists in another form, it is called Farmland Preservation.


    The program is simple, sell your development rights to the county/state in exchange for those lower taxes. If you really believe in New Jersey farming and preserving large tracts of open space, apply and preserve your farm.

    But I doubt you will.

  7. marv says:

    It’s not automatic to put your land into farmland preservation. You have to meet certain rules and there is only a limited amount of money available – the towns pick and choose who receives the funds available based upon their criteria. It may sound easy but it is not a given to put your land in the program.
    We all make our choices. For some, the choice is to live on a small lot in a close-in town with good schools and pay high taxes. For others, the choice is to drive a lot more, have more space (think ten-acre zoning)for a lower price and lower-rated schools. Country living is a choice some make and some have no interest in. An ad hominem attack on farmland assessment shows a lack of knowledge about the issue.

  8. Taffy says:

    This has bothered me for years- and I’m VERY happy to see someone in government finally speak up about it. I will be in touch with Pennacchio!
    I have suggested the same thing…the majority of their income should be derived from farming- it’s that simple…say 51%. In my area- the vast majority (non-farmers)of people who are benefiting from farm land assessment are CLEARLY people who could afford to pay their full load- Whitman included. This jacks up the taxes for everyone else, so they can get an almost free ride.
    I understand the value of open space- but I doubt they would all sell or subdivide if required to pay their fair share.

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