About Land Preservation Agreements
Throughout the country private individuals and organizations have been working to protect their environment and their landscape through land preservation agreements. The Scenic Rivers Land Trust was founded in 1988 (under the name Severn River Land Trust) to provide a mechanism for residents and organizations in Anne Arundel County to use this voluntary mechanism to protect their land. Since then, 52 landowners in the Severn, South, Patuxent, Rhode and West River watersheds have completed land preservation agreements with SRLT ranging in size from a quarter acre to several hundred acres, both waterfront and interior, to preserve their property. Through these materials, you'll learn all the steps and advantages of establishing a preservation agreement for your property.
Is a conservation easement right for you? Ask yourself the following questions: Do I want to preserve the natural features of my property? Do I want to help protect my watershed from the increasing pressures of development? Would the tax benefits of a conservation easement relieve my tax burden and help to ensure that we can continue to maintain our property within our family?
What is an Easement
As a property owner you possess not only the land itself but a number of rights that go with that land -- such as the right to live on the land, to build a house on it, to restrict access to it, to subdivide it, to sell the land, and to pass it on to heirs. The rights to build and to subdivide your property are called "development rights", and these can be separated from the other rights of ownership. A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a property owner (whether an individual or a group such as a Community Association or corporation) and a qualified land trust, such as the Scenic Rivers Land Trust, whereby the owner agrees to limit the type and amount of future development on all or part of a piece of property. The landowner donating a conservation easement can continue to use and enjoy the land, sell the property, pass it on to heirs, etc. as before, but is generally prohibited from further development except within conditions stated in the agreement. A conservation easement does not require any public access to your property - it is still your private property.
Steps to an Easement
To begin researching whether an easement is right for you, there is nothing more helpful than a brief chat with our professional staff as they join you for a walk on your property or sit at your kitchen table. Every family situation and every easement is a little bit different and there is great flexibility to customize an agreement that is right for you. Once staff knows your specific questions, a wide range of information can be made available.
Once initial conversations our complete, and with the landowner’s permission, staff begins a process that has been approved by our board to move toward a successful easement completion.
Staff is guided by two formal documents that will be explained in great detail to landowners. One is our “Conservation Easement Criteria” that demonstrates the priorities that our board has set and the other is our “Process for SRLT Easement Acceptance Decisions, “which provides a road map for how a proposed easement will be handled by our organization.
Tax Advantages of Conservation Easements
Tax Benefits of Donating a Conservation Easement (9/12)
It is common knowledge that selling a property for development can be highly profitable, but a growing number of people are realizing that donating a conservation easement (and maintaining ownership of the land!) is also a financially beneficial option. The tax advantages vary depending on the size and current development value of the property. We strongly encourage you to consult with your personal financial or tax consultant to achieve maximum financial advantage for your situation. The following provides information on the general categories of tax considerations.
SRLT Conservation Easement Criteria
SRLT Conservation Easement Criteria
Approved by Board of Directors 7/13/10
Each easement the Scenic Rivers Land Trust accepts is approved by our Board of Directors. We proactively pursue land protection in specific priority areas.
Formal evaluation of each opportunity is based on two sets of criteria. First, targeting criteria guide an evaluation of the property based on its location and natural features. Second, acceptance criteria guide a detailed evaluation of the specific easement opportunity. The latter evaluation includes the priorities of the landowner, the quantity of development rights retired, the property’s relationship with neighboring properties, and specifics of the property transaction that relate to SRLT’s obligations under Internal Revenue Service law as well as the accreditation standards and practices of land trusts.
The evaluation criteria are intended to guide rather than limit the actions of the SRLT and one of the important benefits of a local land trust is the ability and flexibility to address unusual opportunities.
Process for SRLT Easement Acceptance Decisions
Process for SRLT Easement Acceptance Decisions
Approved by Board of Directors 7/13/1
- Staff use board-approved targeting and acceptance criteria to consider any donated or purchased easement lead. Properties not meeting the criteria are not pursued, but are documented within our database.
- After determining that targeting and acceptance criteria are likely to be met, staff (and/or board members) meet with prospective donors, inspect the property, and take photos. The easement process and potential benefits are explained to the landowner (LO). This meeting should provide a preliminary concept as to the LO’s interest in a donated or purchased easement – including what rights the LO appears willing to give up (e.g. development, subdivision, forest clear cutting), and what the LO’s financial (tax) or other motivators are. If the LO indicates interest in an IRS tax deduction, staff explains SRLT’s appraisal policy. A specific staff or board contact person is established for follow-up. Staff fills out a SRLT Site Inspection Form that becomes part of the easement project file.
Our Conservation Easements
SRLT LAND PRESERVATION
50 Properties Preserved Through Easement or Ownership
1. Sullivan’s Cove, 5.7 acres (individual)
2. Maynadier Creek, 8.18 acres (organization)
3. Willow Oak Herb Farm, 42.95 acres (individual)*
4. Round Bay Road, 0.3 acres (individual)
5. Lake Liberty, 4.03 acres (community association)
6. Cool Spring Cove, 19.65 acres (community and individuals)
7. Windgate, 9.56 acres (community association)
8. Epping Forest I, 1.6 acres (individual)
9. Epping Forest II, 0.3 acres (individual)
10. Brown’s Cove, 7.3 acres (individual)
11. Tidewater Colony, 9.14 acres (community association)
12. West Jabez Branch, 14.42 acres (individual)
13. Brewer Pond Natural Area, 50.0 acres (County)*
14. South Cherry Grove Crossing, 0.25 acres (City)
15. Seabreeze/Harbour Gates, 0.67 acres (community association)
16. Scott’s Crossing, 2.0 acres (community association)
17. Upper Severn, 2.4 acres (individual)
18. Weems Creek, 6.34 acres (individual)
19. St. Stephen’s Estates, 7.07 acres (corporation)
20. Hidden Pond, 61.7 acres (corporation)
21. Herald Harbor/Fox Creek, 7 acres (individual)
22. Herald Harbor/Valentine, .05 acres (individual)
23. General’s Highway, 8.4 acres (individual)
24. Overlook, 124.87 acres (corporation)
25. St. Stephen’s Farm, 15.5 acres (community association)
26. Winchester Road, 20.5 acres (individual)
27. Epping Forest M, 1 acre (individual)
28. Rosehaven, 313 acres (individual)*
29. Luce Creek, 2 acres (individual)
30. Greenhaven, 0.6 acres (corporation)
31. Holladay Park, 57 acres (corporation)* -- three easements
32. Davidsonville, 56.6 acres (County)*
33. Nantucket on the Severn, 4.04 acres (corporation)
34. Shady Side I, 0.75 acre (individual)
35. Shady Side II, 5.0 acres (individual)
36. Shady Side III, 2.4 acres (individual)
37. Pines on the Severn, .908 acres (individual)
38. Pines on the Severn II, .349 acres (individual)
39. South County I, 3.672 acres (individual)*
40. South County II, 10.63 acres (individual)*
41. South County III, 2.79 acres (individual)*
42. South County IV, 3.896 acres (individual)*
43. South County V, 13.188 acres (individual)*
44. Shady Side IV, 4.952 acres (individual)
45. Contee Farm, 579 acres (government)*
46. Hidden View Farm, 62 acres (individual)*
47. Cape Anne, 9.3 acres (individual)
48. Bacon Ridge Natural Area, 630 acres (government)*
49. Magothy Bog, 6 acres (individual) – owned by SRLT
50. Lyons Creek, 53 acres (County)*
51. Maryland Health Society
52. Oak Hill*
*Co-held with Maryland Environmental Trust