In 2008, Florida voters amended the Florida Constitution to allow “working waterfront” properties to be assessed based on the current use of the property, as opposed to the highest and best use of the property. Pursuant to Amendment 6, waterfront land used for commercial fishing, public boat launches, marinas, drystacks, and water-dependent marine manufacturing and repair facilities can no longer be assessed at its fair market value, which often represents the value of the property for a more-intensive use, such as for a hotel or condominium project. Instead, the property must be assessed based on its actual use as of January 1st of each tax year, beginning with the 2010 tax year.
Sounds great, right? Well, the bad news is that, despite the approval of this amendment by the voters, the Florida legislature has yet to pass any enabling legislation to define the types of properties that qualify or, more importantly, to provide a procedure for applying for and receiving classification as a working waterfront. Oops. The Senate considered SB 1468, which would have required taxpayers to apply for working waterfront classification by March 1st of each year, unless the counties waived the annual application requirement, but that bill died in committee.
In July 2009, the Florida Department of Revenue issued an informational bulletin, PTO 09-24, advising the county property appraisers that, because this constitutional provision is self-executing, working waterfront properties are entitled to be assessed at their actual use beginning in the 2010 tax year, regardless of the lack of enabling legislation. Thus, while some property appraisers may disagree with the DOR and decide not to apply the constitutional amendment until the legislature passes enabling legislation, I expect that most counties will try to begin implementing the new law this year.
So, absent any procedures or forms for taxpayers to use in applying for working waterfront classification, how should one go about seeking this classification? Some property appraisers may choose to develop county-specific procedures for taxpayers to use in their jurisdiction, but others may not. The important thing to remember is that the property appraisers’ systems will generally not automatically recognize which properties qualify as working waterfronts. So, if you believe your property qualifies for this classification, you should contact your county Property Appraiser and make sure that they are aware of how your property is being used, and that they have all of the information they need about your property to assess it based on its actual use.