IS CONSERVATION AN OPTION FOR YOU?
Davidson Lands Conservancy is working to save open space for today and for future generations. There are already more than 460 acres of conserved land in the Davidson area, but forests, farm land, and natural spaces are disappearing quickly as new roads are built, new houses rise, new schools fill, and commercial areas bustle with business.
Do you have the three elements required for a successful conservation?
You can preserve your land by granting a conservation easement or by conveying the entire property to Davidson Lands Conservancy.
You can donate land to Davidson Lands Conservancy if you wish to see your land conserved and no longer have a use for the land, have no heirs, or wish to reduce property and estate taxes. You may benefit from an income-tax deduction for the full appraised value of the land and reduced estate taxes. If you’re interested in donating your land or a conservation easement on the land, consult with your legal counsel or tax advisor to determine whether you are eligible for the financial and tax benefits of conservation. Davidson Lands Conservancy does not offer tax or legal advice.
“Bargain-Sale” of Land
You may want to sell your property to Davidson Lands Conservancy at a price below the market value. When the land is sold at less than the appraised market value, the bargain is considered a tax-deductible charitable donation. The bargain gift must be appraised by a qualified appraiser to be eligible as a tax deduction. You may be able to take advantage of tax benefits including federal and state income tax deductions and a reduction in estate taxes. Our Forever Fund is used, in unique circumstances, to purchase conservation easements or land. But in most cases, the high value of the land and our limited resources preclude our purchase of land. Most conservation easements are donated.
A conservation easement is a common legal tool that permanently conserves land. Each easement is unique to the protected property, tailored to the needs of the landowner and to the conservation values of the property. You can maintain ownership in the land and, by the easement, promise to keep the land in its natural condition. The easement is held by a land trust, in this case Davidson Lands Conservancy, that promises to monitor and protect the conservation terms of the easement forever. Conservation easements are permanent and recorded in the land records.
Davidson Lands Conservancy is your partner in conserving your land and is there with you through the process. We can assist with all the steps required to conserve your property. The timeframe for finalizing an easement donation depends on many factors but generally can be accomplished in 2-3 months.
We’ll meet to understand your family’s vision for your property. This is also a great time for us to explain the conservation process, answer all your questions about conservation, discuss any concerns with the project, and plan next steps.
Visit the Property
We arrange a good time to meet you and/or other family members to assess your property’s conservation values and natural features. We are looking for things like water-quality and stream protection, farmland, wildlife habitat, open space, and hardwood forests.
Letter of Intent
When all your conservation questions have been answered to your satisfaction, we draft for your consideration a non-binding Letter of Intent that clearly expresses your interest in the project.
Assess the Property’s History & Environmental Conditions
When you place a conservation easement on your property, Davidson Lands Conservancy becomes part of the chain of title of your property. So we’re very interested in understanding the environmental history of your land, and we ask you to complete an Environmental Questionnaire. In most cases, the history of the property is clear and benign. If the assessment or survey uncovers any environmental concerns, we work with you to complete a Phase I Environmental Assessment to further define any environmental threats.
Draft the Conservation Easement
Because your grant of a conservation easement is permanent and runs with the property forever, you and your family must understand and endorse the terms and conditions of the conservation easement. Working with you we customize the easement to meet your needs and fulfill your vision for your land while also protecting your property’s conservation values. If you haven’t already done so, this is when you consult with your legal counsel and tax advisor about your eligibility for tax benefits. While Davidson Lands Conservancy crafts the easement to meet the stated requirements of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and the North Carolina Department of Revenue, only those government agencies ultimately determine the acceptability of the donation.
Hire an Appraiser to Value the Easement
You hire a qualified appraiser to determine the conservation easement’s value. We can help with this process. The land is appraised at both its market value without easement restrictions and its market value with the easement restrictions. The difference is the value of the easement. This easement value determines the income and estate tax benefits of donating the easement. To qualify for tax benefits, a qualified appraisal of the easement gift must be completed within 60 days of the easement signing and recording.
Request DLC Approval
After we finalize the draft conservation easement, we present the project to the Davidson Lands Conservancy’s Land Acquisition and Stewardship Committees. When the committees have approved the project, we present it to Davidson Lands Conservancy’s Board of Directors [link to Leadership] for review and approval.
Inventory the Property
A baseline inventory documents the condition of the property at the time of your donation. The inventory, recognized in the U.S. tax code, describes the natural features of the property and includes detailed maps and photos. Conservancy staff prepare the baseline inventory, or you may elect to engage a qualified consultant to prepare the inventory for you.
Get a Property Description & Survey
As with any real estate transaction, the Conservancy requires an accurate legal description and survey of the property. If the property has not been recently surveyed, we can recommend a surveyor. We engage an attorney to complete a thorough review of the property’s title.
Execute the Conservation Easement
All owners of the property sign the easement, and then it is recorded with the county Register of Deeds. The Conservancy safeguards the original conservation easement and other important documents in a secure, off-site storage unit. Owners receive copies of all documents.
Document the Tax Benefits of the Donation
The donor (or the donor’s tax advisor) presents a completed IRS Form 8283 to the Conservancy for signature acknowledging the conservation easement gift. Davidson Lands Conservancy cannot participate in a project where the Form 8283 does not accurately reflect the conservation donation. Review IRS Form 8283 and the instructions for completing it.
Establish a Stewardship and Legal Defense Fund
For each conservation project, the Conservancy establishes a Stewardship and Legal Defense Fund to cover any costs associated with monitoring the property and any future legal defense of the conservation easement, should the conservation values be threatened. We work with landowners to determine the best means of funding future stewardship of the property.
Celebrate the Partnership
Granting an easement to conserve your property is not the end; it’s really just the beginning. Davidson Lands Conservancy partners with you and your family to ensure your property’s conservation values are preserved forever!
Still have questions? Check out our Conservation FAQ. Prefer to talk to a person? Great! Email Dave Cable, Executive Director, or call him at 704-577-2004.