Land Protection Options
The Burrillville Land Trust has a number of different options for landowners who want to protect their land. But before you talk with one of us, you should consult your tax attorney, financial advisor or CPA to make sure your decision is the right one for you.
If you are a landowner concerned with the future of your land, this information is for you. Whether by purchase, gift, or inheritance, you own part of this scenic and historic town. Ask yourself: Will my family and future generations be able to enjoy this land as I have? Or How can I get the best value for my property when I sell it or give it away.
Unless you take deliberate action to protect your land, the odds are strongly in favor of its eventual development. An inexorable tide of mostly unplanned development is washing over Rhode Island. Even in rural communities such as our own, habitat is being fragmented, scenic views are being lost, and water quality is lessened as new construction takes place. Some of this change is inevitable and beneficial, as communities need to grow and evolve. But much of this change eliminates what we love about our state and our town.
The good news is that you can take steps to protect your land, for the good of your family and your community. In Burrillville hundreds of acres are protected today because private landowners like you made timely decisions to conserve them.
This information will introduce you to the options available to you as a private landowner that will protect your property.
Gifts of Land
One of the best ways to protect land permanently is to donate it to a private, non-profit conservation organization – commonly known as a land trust. If you want to protect your land permanently and make it available for others to enjoy, and if you want to be free of the burdens of ownership, management and taxes, this may be your best choice.
Choosing the right organization to own and care for your land is an important decision. How do you want the land used? What organizations have management philosophies similar to your own? Is it important to you that the forest be managed through harvesting or maintained primarily for wildlife habitat? Do you want the land open to hikers? To hunters? To snowmobilers? To cyclists? Depending on the size, and special features of your land, there may be an organization that may be interested in accepting a gift of your land and the responsibility of caring for it indefinitely.
Donating land for conservation brings with it certain tax benefits. You are no longer responsible for paying property taxes on the land. The value of the property is removed from your estate, potentially reducing the estate tax burden for your heirs. You avoid capital gains taxes that would likely be due if you were to sell the land. Finally, the value of the land, when given to a qualified non-profit land trust may be claimed as a charitable contribution on your federal income tax return. Tax rules limit how much you can claim in any given year, but unused portions of the gift may be carried forward for up to five additional years. Always check with your CPA or financial advisor or estate planner to see if a donation of property is in your best interest.
Gift of a Conservation Easement
Landowners who wish to protect their land permanently while retaining ownership may choose to donate a conservation restriction or easement to a land trust. A conservation easement is a legal agreement that extinguishes certain development rights on the property forever, and gives a non-profit land trust the right and responsibility to monitor the property and enforce the terms of the easement.
With a conservation easement (or CE), the land itself remains in private hands and may be sold, given, or willed to any party the owner chooses. The CE, “rides with the land” and goes on record at the land deeds office and becomes a permanent part of the property’s title, binding all future owners of the land. The public has no right to use the property unless that right of access is specifically granted in the CE.
Conservation restrictions have become a very popular conservation tool in recent years. It is a flexible technique that can be tailored to the specific needs of the land and the owner. CEs are particularly useful for owners who want to retain ownership of their land while ensuring the protection of its important qualities. In the future, ownership of land can be transferred by sale, inheritance or gift, subject to the protections of the CE.
Landowners who donate a CE are often eligible for federal income tax deductions. The amount of the charitable contribution is determined by a qualified professional appraiser, hired by the donor, and is calculated as the amount by which the CE has lowered the fair-market value of the property. Donated CEs may provide significant estate and property tax benefits as well.
Sale and Bargain Sale
Though funds are limited, some state agencies and conservation organizations do purchase land and conservation restrictions. State agencies have the largest acquisition budgets, but on occasion some towns and non-profits also purchase property and CEs. Because funding is always scarce and competitive, purchases are usually limited to properties of the highest priority – such as lands of high ecological value near or adjacent to existing holdings.
Sometimes a landowner is able and willing to sell conservation property for less than the fair market value to assist in its protection. This is known as a “Bargain Sale.” A bargain sale often makes a purchase more feasible or attractive for an agency or land trust, and can offer significant tax advantages to the seller. When the land is sold to a conservation organization or public agency, the landowner may claim the difference between the fair market value and the sale price as a charitable contribution on her or his federal income tax return.
For More Information
So now you know about some of the ways that land can be protected in our town. There are many ways to get involved with the land trust. We always welcome new members to the land trust. Meetings are generally open to the public and we regularly hold workshops on estate planning, land protection, local food production and more. To learn more, check out the Calendar of Events or write or call us.Burrillville Land Trust PO Box 506 Harrisville, Rhode Island 02830
Contact For More InformationPaul A. Roselli firstname.lastname@example.org