Cheshire
Land Trust

 

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Ives Well

Ives Farm

historic windmill & cistern

Cheshire Land Trust
Preserving Land as a Living Resource Since 1969

 

The non-profit Cheshire Land Trust is the best local organizations to protect your property if your circumstances permit. A gift of land to the the trust adds to the inventory of preserved land and prevents its further development.

Donations include

Land, Conservation Restrictions/Easements & Financial Contributions

Other ways to contribute - Volunteer your time & energy

Print Info

1. CLT Criteria for Land Acquisition

2. Understanding Conservation Restrictions

3. Sample Document - Conservation Restriction Agreement

 

Donations to the land trust include financial gifts, personal property and land.

Our members may also contribute to the vitality of the trust with their time and valuable work experience which enhances the quality of the services we can deliver as a land conserving organization.

Land Donations &Conservation Restrictions

Do you own a property you want to protect? Consider the options available and contact us. We can assist you in the process by finding the right partners for you to talk to. Your inquiries will be confidential.

The trust evaluates all land offers. The trust applies a cost benefit analysis to all acquisitions using the criteria we have adopted for acquiring lands which are outlined below.

I. CLT Adopted Criteria for Acquiring Lands

A. Criterion; Abutting property

Adjoins a parcel presently under our stewardship or adjoins other public or private open space (Or, less ideally, a parcel which is separated from an open space by no more than one intervening property through which there is an easement or right of way which allows public access on foot.)

The undeveloped lot off Inverness Court & Bethany Mountain Rd. contains access rights to Russell Property.  A purchase of this property would meet this criteria.

The Carroll Woods Property acquired in 2005 is adjacent to the Brooksvale Farm Preserve. In addition to protecting a watercourse this acquisition fulfilled this criterion.

Expected result of acquisition

The acquisition would help create large contiguous areas of open space (feeding corridors for wildlife/ green belts for hiking.) Giddings Farm preserves farming, adjoins town owned Lassen Farm and extends the east side greenway.

Suggested actions accompanying the acquisition

If land adjoins other privately owned open space, try to get right of first refusal from that property owner or at least a letter of intent.

B. Criterion; Ecological importance

Land which is ecologically important: the development of a parcel which would contribute to or cause environmental damage such as the pollution of a water supply, interruption of a wildlife corridor, loss of habitat for birds/animals designated as endangered, threatened, or of special concern.

 C. Criterion; Wetlands & Watercourses

Land containing wetlands, water bodies including seasonal, watercourses

Expected result of acquisition: Preservation of existing biological diversity.

Accompanying actions: Insure buffers of the wetlands and access to by wildlife. Initiate studies of area, perhaps through small grants from a CLT fund set aside for this purpose.

D. Criterion; Scenic Value
Views into parcel or out of parcel are familiar and cherished; integral part of  character of area.

The Brooksvale Farm Preserve Conservation Restriction (McKee, Lewis, Thayer, 1992, 1995, 1999) preserve scenic vistas and a remnant of the towns former agricultural heritage.

Expected result of acquisition:

Preservation of character of area, preservation of visual resources of town; enhancement of quality of life of community.

Accompanying actions:  Plan for maintaining views: example: a field that would be kept mown

E. Criterion; Historic Significance

Land Is of historical interest or importance such as the site of an important event or industry
examples: sawmill,  trolley bridge; a graveyard, Indian artifacts

The Wu property off Mixville & Summit Rd. is ecologically and historically significant as it contains a trolley bridge and preserved rail beds.

Expected results of acquisition:

Educational—research and field trips.
Historical— part of record of town's past
           
Accompanying actions:  Public access to site,  informational signs.  Encourage study of the site perhaps by a small grant from CLT, with written report to be submitted.

II. Unacceptable or conditionally acceptable land acquisitions:

A. Lands which contain environmentally damaging materials such as petroleum products, necessitating an expensive cleanup cannot be accepted until they have been cleaned up and have passed Federal and CT DEP inspections.

B. Woodlands significantly damaged by disease, pests or invasive vines are questionably appropriate acquisitions, but could be useful for studies or reclamation projects. Woodlands that have been clear cut or burned could be valuable areas for the study of the stages of regeneration or for maintaining as grassy areas. 

C.  Parcels with sidewalks have proved costly for the Land Trust to maintain.  If the environmental, historical or scenic value outweighs the presence of a sidewalk, then the property should be acquired, but it would be appropriate to ask the donor  for a contribution  to a CLT property maintenance fund.

III. Required Documentation on  Properties

A. Surveys: all parcels must have A2 surveys

B. Deeds: CLT should actively participate in all deed drafting. 

Deeds by outright title or by conservation restriction (easement) have different language by definition.  Common to all must be CLT’s goal of protective custodial stewardship.  Lands which have overly restrictive deeds cannot be accepted. Example; a deed in which CLT has development rights but the donor has reserved rights to activities (such as driving heavy trucks over the property) which could be harmful to water, soil, animals and plants.

CLT’s Ten Mile River Preserve & Judd Brook Preserve contain donor reserved rights that have compelled CLT to become sidelined and somewhat neutralized parties to development in questionable wetland settings.

The Brooksvale Farm Preserve Conservation Restriction (McKee, Lewis, Thayer, 1992 & 1995) is the best recent example of CLT & donor participation in the documentation and implementation of a restrictive yet thoroughly acceptable conservation (easement) restriction.

Roaring Brook (12/78) has a termination date after 25 years.  While the preservation of Roaring Brook preserve is not in doubt it was unwise for CLT to accept a time limitation on its rights.

Note:   CLT's goal for all its properties is that they remain forever wild, that activities on the land be limited to those which do not harm native animals and plants, soil texture, rock formations, wetlands, water bodies and/or any other existing natural conditions. Any deed restrictions which could impede this goal are not acceptable.

Other questions on deeds:

1. Deed granting rights of way (ROW); Specifications, restrictions and boundary marks should be clearly defined and mapped.
            a. see Russell Family ROW documentation.

2. Other required documents: Title search
            a. Mortgaged property cannot be conveyed by a donor unless mortgagee is a co-party to the conveyance. 


IV. Related Topics for Consideration

Endowment Funding:

"Endowment funding is necessary for the long term defense of all Trust lands. An endowment fund is established for each parcel of land accepted by the Trust. It is expected that the land donor would appreciate and participate in this essential process." (from the San Juan Preservation Trust's statement of purpose)

Structures:

What is our stance on acquiring buildings such as houses? 
 
If the building were an essential part of acquiring an important property, we might take this under consideration.  Are we, under present bylaws, allowed to divide off part of a donated parcel and sell it?
 
By-laws: CLT by-laws do not prevent the Land Trust from portioning off a section of land containing a building, to sell. However, it has not been the intent of the CLT to accept a property designated as open space and then sell the entire piece.

Tax consequences of such a sale must always be explored before any action is taken.

Open Space Acquisition - Subdivisions

Subdivision regulations usually require open space set asides as part of the Planning & Zoning Commission's approval process. The same scrutiny is applied to these offers. The town and the land trust have the rights of first refusal in these cases. If either entity declines the offer the designated open space becomes the responsibly of a homeowners association which is formed as the approval and construction process is completed.

Bequests

Some acquisitions of land are from bequests. They can come as complete surprises. If a landowner is considering this form of a gift they should investigate the trust to become familiar with of our function and our suitability for their gift. In these matters your financial and legal council must become very informed about the appropriateness of the gift and the financial implications for the donor's heirs. Planners should help the landowner develop a concise statement in the will declaring the donor's intent of the gift. Above all, a potential donor should become a member so they can gain further insight into our purpose through communications such as our newsletters, this web site, and our meetings.

Conservation Restrictions

What is a conservation easement and how does it preserve land?

SOME FACTS ABOUT CONSERVATION EASEMENTS

For a family  that cares about the long term future of their land, the first preservation tool is a conservation easement.  With a conservation easement you can protect your land and take advantage of tax benefits.  These are largely matters to be coordinated by an attorney, your financial planners / accountants and an appropriate non-profit, i.e. land trust.

A conservation easement is a recorded deed restriction under which you give up some or all of the development rights associated with your property. Every conservation easement is different. Yours would be written to carry out your particular wishes for your particular piece of land. As an example of what you might say in the easement:
           
"I reserve the right to live here, to come and go as I please.  I reserve the right to continue agricultural practices and cut some timber. Beyond that there can't be any further development, no subdividing of the land, or any other commercial enterprises."

Or, you might say, " I reserve the right to carve out two more house lots        and beyond that, there will no further subdividing of the land, etc."  

When you restrict your property with a conservation easement, you still own the property.  You can sell the land, subject to the terms of the easement.   You can leave the land to your children, subject to the terms of the easement. A landowner who cares about his property enough to protect it with a conservation easement, will continue to have the same use and enjoyment of the land as he had prior to the easement.

A properly drafted easement will limit only those activities which are harmful to the conservation value of your land, while allowing any activities which you specify such as haying (including leasing the hay rights), horseback riding, and building structures such as a storage shed or a barn for horses.

Is a conservation easement different from a deed restriction? Yes, in most cases a deed restriction cannot be enforced, one reason being that it is unclear who would enforce it. In the case of a conservation easement, the donee organization  that will enforce the restriction is clearly identified. 

In addition, a deed restriction which does not meet the tax law requirements  for conservation easements can create potentially serious tax problems.   


TAX ADVANTAGES OF A CONSERVATION EASEMENT

1.  A conservation easement will create a lower estate tax for your heirs, because the value of the inherited property will be lower than before the easement.

2. Income tax deduction.

To be eligible for a charitable gift deduction, the tax code says you must "give" the conservation easement to a charitable organization (usually in the environmental field), or to a unit of government.  What you are actually giving is the right for the donee organization to enforce the recorded restrictions on the use of your property for all time. 
           
You will be eligible for an income tax deduction in the amount of the value of the conservation easement at the time of the gift to a charitable organization. To find out the value of a conservation easement, subtract      the appraised value of the property after the easement from the value of the property before the easement.

Up to 30% of the landowner's income can be deducted in the year the gift was given.  If the value of the gift is is more than that, the rest is deducted over the next five years.
           
To be entitled to federal tax benefits for putting a conservation easement on your property, there are several requirements. 
           

  1. The easement must be forever. An easement that is in effect for several  years, will not meet the tax law rules for deductible gifts. 
  1. The easement must go to a qualified conservation organization.
  1. You must get a qualified appraisal: one done by an honest, competent person who understands how to appraise conservation easements.

3.  Your property tax bill will go down because the appraised value of your land will be less than before. Make sure the town assessors are aware of your       easement and the reduced value of your land for property tax purposes.

Things to Think About When Drawing up a Conservation Easement

Here are some of the questions you'll need to go over before drawing up an easement.  The answers given are just suggestions; yours may be different.

Q: As a landowner, what activities do you wish to prohibit in the future?
A:  Subdividing the land, putting up buildings other than what you wish

Q: What kinds of things are you doing on your land right now that you might want to continue doing?
A:  The land will still belong to you, so any activities you are doing now will continue.

Q:  What kinds of commercial or recreational activities do you want to be allowed on the land in the future, by your heirs or by future owner?
A:   timbering, haying, fish hatchery, farming, building of one house, not to block view of land from the road, building of not more than two buildings for recreational use, such as: pool, horse barn, storage for sporting equipment, tennis court, pool house, etc. etc. 
 (The above answer contains some examples of specific activities that can be written into an easement.)

A conservation easement can be written into a will.  

This ensures that your wishes for future uses of your property will be carried out. The wording of the conservation easement should be worked out with the donee organization when the will is being prepared, so that it will be ready to accept your gift and enforce the easement. 

There should be wording in your will to permit your executor to take appropriate steps to complete the easement transaction — appraisals, surveying,

Ownership of your land will pass to the heirs designated in your will. They can use the land for any purpose except those activities stated in the easement.

You can change your mind about a conservation easement just as you can with any part of a will. You can make changes to the wording, eliminate it from your will, or go ahead and make the easement gift while you are alive. 

 

 

Webmaster: Tim Slocum

Site last updated: June 25, 2013