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Adelanto’s Vacant Land Tax Headed to Ballot

ADELANTO, Calif. ( – In order to address persistent budget deficits, the City of Adelanto gave their approval to a proposed tax measure that’s slated to appear on the ballot in March 2024, with the aim of securing sufficient votes to impose a special tax on properties that are currently vacant.

Under this new measure, if passed, owners of vacant land in Adelanto will pay an additional tax ranging from $50.00 per acre to $600.00 per acre annually, with rates based on zoning.

The table above shows the maximum tax rates for each property type.

The primary objective of this proposed tax is to generate additional revenue for crucial community needs such as parks and recreation, illegal dumping remediation, public safety, capital improvement projects, and specified programs.

Over the past two decades, the city has grappled with budget shortfalls primarily resulting from slow assessed valuation growth and a low property tax rate of approximately 1.75 percent. While the city has managed to sustain operations using one-time funds, these resources have now been depleted. Hence, the proposed tax specifically targeting vacant properties aims to address the ongoing budget deficit issue and provide a dedicated funding source for essential services, including the police and fire departments.

Of the city’s total 13,310 parcels, an estimated 3,976 parcels covering approximately 25,000 acres are considered vacant land. These vacant properties have a detrimental impact on the community, attracting crime, blight, and illegal dumping. Moreover, they occupy space that could otherwise be utilized for housing or commercial development. Furthermore, vacant properties tend to reduce property values in the neighborhood while generating little to no tax revenue.

Mayor Gabriel Reyes highlighted that 97% of vacant land in Adelanto is owned by individuals residing outside the city. Drawing attention to this, Mayor Reyes emphasized the need for immediate action to transform these idle properties into thriving developments.

“We don’t want to see the trash, we don’t want to see vacant land, we want to see development,” asserted Mayor Reyes, conveying the city’s pressing concerns. Recognizing the potential of these untapped lands, the Mayor underscored two potential courses of action for landowners.

Firstly, landowners have the option to retain their property and contribute to the city’s progress by fulfilling their tax obligations and paying the increased taxes, if the measure passes. Mayor Reyes encouraged these property owners to invest in Adelanto’s growth by ensuring their taxes are paid, which in turn would facilitate the city’s development plans.

Alternatively, the Mayor urged landowners to consider selling their properties. Saying that doing so, the land could be reassessed at current market values rather than relying on outdated valuations from decades past. This reassessment would provide a fair and accurate reflection of the land’s present worth, bolstering the potential for increased tax revenue and prospective developers to seize opportunities and contribute to Adelanto’s expansion.

According to staff estimates, the proposed tax has the potential to generate approximately $6.2 million per year in revenue for a period of 20 years. The revenue generated would be allocated to various purposes, including parks and recreation (10%), illegal dumping remediation (5%), public safety (65%), and capital projects (20%). By allocating the tax revenue to specific purposes, the city aims to address underfunded services, eliminate blight, and combat illegal dumping.

(Based upon the above tax rate, Staff estimate that the tax will generate revenue for each Zoning District each year as depicted above.)

Notably, the implementation of the vacant property tax not only provides a dedicated funding source but also encourages the productive use of these properties. By introducing a tax on properties that remain unused for extended periods, the measure incentivizes property owners to make use of their vacant properties. This, in turn, has the potential to increase the housing supply and promote commercial and industrial development.

In a recent statement, Mayor Pro Tem Daniel Ramos emphasized the need for action, stating, “This is a message that we’re sending to anybody out there that purchased land in our City and is out chilling and relaxing somewhere while trash builds, we hope that you guys come back and do something.”

The Mayor Pro Tem expressed frustration at the lack of progress, saying he was tired of seeing dirt, and urged landowners to consider selling their unused land to individuals or organizations who are willing to invest in the community’s development. “We are in full building mode,” he explains. “And if we have to increase taxes and figure out more ways to send this message to you guys, we’re going to continue to do that until you get this message loud and clear.”

Mayor Reyes and city officials are calling upon all stakeholders to recognize the importance of revitalizing vacant land in Adelanto. The city envisions the conversion of these neglected properties into vibrant centers of business or residential activity, adding value to both the local community and the broader region.

Vacant properties left unused for prolonged periods tend to attract criminal activity, contributing to blighted neighborhoods. Taxing these properties can help mitigate such issues, benefiting both the community and property owners.

It is crucial to acknowledge that the proposed tax would encompass different types of vacant properties, ranging from undeveloped private land to vacant commercial and industrial buildings, as well as empty residential units. A property would be classified as vacant if it is used for less than 50 days during a calendar year. However, certain exemptions would be provided.

Property owners who fall under the very low-income bracket or can demonstrate exceptional circumstances preventing property use or development may apply for exemptions. Additionally, owners of properties under active construction, with ongoing building permit applications, or included in planning approvals would also be eligible for exemptions. Furthermore, owners of parcels actively used for community gardens, agriculture, and those meeting specific income criteria could seek exemption. Non-profit organizations and entities owned or controlled by non-profit organizations would also be exempt from the tax.

To ensure transparency and citizen oversight, the staff has recommended the establishment of a Vacant Property Tax Advisory Commission. This commission would comprise five members appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council. Their primary responsibilities would include reviewing financial reports, publishing annual reports on the implementation of the measure, recommending tax fund allocations, and reporting on the impact of the tax on illegal dumping and related issues.

This item had been previously discussed during a 2020 meeting, indicating that it was not the first time it was presented. The Adelanto City Council considered placing the proposed tax measure on the November 2020 ballot but decided to postpone any action in order to further clarify the details.

The upcoming presidential primary election on March 5, 2024, will provide an opportunity for the voters of Adelanto to make a decisive choice on this crucial initiative that has the potential to shape the future of their community.

As outlined in the Ordinance, the proposed Measure must receive a two-thirds (2/3) supermajority of votes at the City’s Election on March 5, 2024 in order to be passed.

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