Thursday, October 28, 2004



We are investing our time and efforts in building bridges to the future.

Our company, Eco-STEWARD Realty works with individuals and groups to identify and put into permanent protection significant open space in the greater Asheville area of Western North Carolina. Our goal is to help protect more than 20,000 acres by 2010. You know, the most straightforward way to protect land is to take permanent ownership. If you are reading this, the Appalachians are calling you!

You can establish a Land Trust, (possibly even do this with a portion of your 1031 Exchange) set aside a small portion of it for you and your family, and be confident that the land's future is secure from development and mismanagement. The conservation easement is a flexible tool that protects land while leaving it in private ownership.

I asked Pete Henry, an attorney who has worked with us on numerous occasions to define a conservation easement.

“The easement, “he told me, “is a legal document, guides future uses of a property regardless of ownership. A landowner generally donates the easement to a qualified conservation organization or government agency which in turn ensures that the conditions of the easement are met over time.”

“What are some of the benefits of a conservation easement?” I wanted to know.

“Well,” Pete said, “Easements provide numerous benefits!”

“I think that one of the most attractive features is that the landowner retains title to the property. This means that the landowner and can live on it, sell it, or pass it on to heirs, knowing that it will always be protected.”

“Can you give me an example of how this might work?” I asked.

“Well, janeAnne, I can think of one family who was looking at selling their land so that they could raise the cash to pay estate taxes. Luckily, they heard about easements. They created an easement which greatly reduced the estate taxes, and prevented the forced sale of their properties. By the way, easements may also provide income tax and property tax reductions by eliminating unwanted development value.”

I asked a client of mine about a Land Trust she is putting together. Knowing that a land trust or government agency ensures that restrictions are followed in perpetuity, I wondered what rights she would choose to maintain.

“We will retain many rights associated with the land,” she explained, “but will retain the right to build a small number of residences while relinquishing the right to grow crops.”

She had discovered first-hand how easements can be tailored to protect the land's natural and cultural values, meet financial and personal needs, and attain conservation goals.

“Our investment group has decided to retain the right to create future building lots, but we will limit the number to far less than would be allowed under local zoning, and protect the waterfalls on our property by limiting the location of future structures and the types of land use activities that can take place. Of course, we will allow for hiking and horseback riding, and picnicking by the falls.”

With the involvement of surrounding communities, you can create an environment where both human and natural needs are met - where appropriate recreation, educational and scientific programs are available without harming the natural resources that make our mountains and valleys unique.

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