A conservation easement is a deed restriction, binding on all current and future owners of the land, intended to preserve the agricultural, open space and natural resource values of the land. An easement limits certain uses on all or a portion of a property, while keeping the property in the landowner’s ownership. Easements can be used to preserves the character of the property and are tailored to the property and to fit with the goals of the landowner. Easements can be used to restrict or prohibit further development, support sustainable forestry and to protect lands for agricultural, open space, historical, scenic, recreational or educational purposes. Easements also protect natural resources, which supports the health of our watersheds, woodlands and open spaces. Preservation provides us with the scenic vistas that are a large part of York County’s character
No. Ownership may be transferred. The easement restrictions remain in tact because the easement agreement is in perpetuity. The agreement documentation is filed with the Recorder of Deeds office.
The Farm & Natural Lands Trust has two land preservation programs.
Our traditional easement program accepts the donation of easements. This charitable gift may result in a tax savings for the donating landowner. As a result of a grant from the County of York, landowners may now apply to the Trust’s Bargain Sale Open Space Land Preservation Program. A bargain sale program means the landowner will receive a portion of the easement value in exchange for preserving the property. Funds are limited and applications are selected based on evaluation.
Yes, the York County Agricultural Land Preservation Board (commonly referred to as the ‘County Program’) pays landowners for their development rights. They have an application process and a ranking system because funds are limited and will not allow them to satisfy all applicants. However, certain restrictions apply and we encourage you to call them to learn more about their program. Their telephone number is 717-840-7400.
Yes. Some landowners may find that preserving part of their property with the ‘County Program’ and part with the Trust will improve their score with the County program and increase the dollars they retain after taxes.
The value of the easement is determined by an appraiser, who is selected and paid for by the property owner. The appraiser appraises the land at its market or development value, and at its present use value. The difference between the two values is the value of the easement which is also considered to be the value of the contribution to the Trust.
The Trust pays for the baseline document, title search, and our attorney to develop the Conservation Easement agreement. Each Conservation Easement agreement is tailored to the individual property. With these costs and the time involved in the Conservation Easement Agreement by the Trust staff, we typically spend $5,000 in the easement process.
The costs to the landowner include: the $25.00 application fee, Authorization Agreement fee of $250.00, Conservation Easement Appraisal, Land Stewardship Pledge and Survey (if needed). We also recommend landowners consult with their accountant and attorney.
If a landowner elects to withdraw from the Conservation Easement process prior to it’s completion, the landowner will be responsible to reimburse the Farm & Natural Lands Trust for all costs incurred up to that point.
If the Conservation Easement Agreement meets the Conservation Purpose Test of the IRS code, you may be able to use the balance of your Conservation Easement value as a charitable donation. We advise you to consult with your accountant regarding these provisions of the IRS code. Individuals taking a charitable donation for the balance of the value are required to submit Form 8283 and a copy of their appraisal with their tax return.
Your Conservation Easement Agreement will state that this agreement is in perpetuity. As part of the agreement, the Farm & Natural Lands Trust is committing to an annual site inspection of the property. The annual site inspection insures land use practices remain in compliance as identified in the conservation easement document. Our Land Stewardship Fund provides financially for ongoing site inspections and will allow us to defend the conservation easement if a violation occurs. Because our operating budget is not supported with government funds, the Trust must insure it has the financial resources to undertake this responsibility. The Trust will only use the interest proceeds from the fund for these purposes to insure funds are available in perpetuity to cover this important responsibility.