D&R Greenway Land Trust's professionals work with landowners to design land protection deals that are a win-win for all. There are many variations of land protection that will affect the landowner's continuing use and benefit. These include a conservation easement, fee acquisition, reserve life estate or remainder interest, and bequest.
D&R Greenway is recognized nationally and in the State of New Jersey as a leader in land preservation and stewardship. Founded in 1989 through a collaboration and vision of four organizations -- the Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association, Friends of Princeton Open Space, Regional Planning Partnership, and the Delaware & Raritan Canal Commission -- we have grown from a small grassroots organizations that completed the first non-profit acquisition in 1990 to a regional land trust with many strategic partners to ensure permanent protection for sensitive woodlands, wetlands, streams and meadows in seven counties in the state of New Jersey.
D&R Greenway has a Board of Trustees consisting of 25 members that meets monthly to oversee the operations, strategic planning and fiscal management of the organization. In January 2011, Richard Goldman, Chairman, Board of Trustees from 2004-2010, stepped down after serving a very successful term with the organization preserving a number of key properties, particularly the 343-acre St. Michaels lands in Hopewell. In February 2011, Alan Hershey was elected Chairman of D&R Greenway's Board of Trustees. Alan previously served as Treasurer of the Board of Trustees.
Different types of transactions are briefly described below.
These land preservation techniques can be accomplished through a donation, bargain sale or sale for full value. A bargain sale is a sale at less than the appraised fair market value; donation is an outright gift for no financial remuneration. The Internal Revenue Service allows an income tax deduction for qualified conservation donations of either a part or the entire value of a property. D&R Greenway Land Trust strongly urges landowners to consult with their personal tax advisors regarding eligible deductions.
A landowner may donate or sell a conservation easement on his/her property. A conservation easement is a legal restriction that prohibits subdivision and development on a property. It also restricts activities on the property that would have a negative effect on the natural characteristics of the property. These restrictions are usually tailored to each specific property and landowner. Restrictions may include limits on cutting trees and native plant species, limits on soil disturbance, protective measures for stream corridors, and limits on the use of motorized vehicles including ATVs.
A conservation easement may include provisions for agricultural and recreational uses, and continuing single residential use by the property owner. A conservation easement may substantially reduce the value of the property for inheritance tax purposes, enabling the land to remain in the family rather than be sold to pay the estate taxes. The land remains in private ownership and D&R Greenway Land Trust is responsible for monitoring and defending the restrictions with the property owners, current and future.
Fee Simple Acquisition
A fee simple acquisition by D&R Greenway is the sale or gift of the property by deed to our organization. D&R Greenway becomes the owner of the land, which is restricted as permanent open space. In some cases, the land may be transferred to a public agency as an addition to parkland. This can provide tax benefits and cash value to the landowner.
Reserved Life Estate or Remainder Interest
With a reserved life estate or remainder interest the land is transferred to D&R Greenway immediately and the owner reserves the use of the property for his or her lifetime. This right may be designed to benefit family generations. This allows the landowner to receive an income tax benefit during his or her lifetime, and removes the value of the property from the estate.
With a bequest, the landowner conveys the property to D&R Greenway at the time of his or her death through a will. This removes the value of the property from the estate for inheritance tax purposes. The addition of a conservation easement ensures that the property will be permanently protected. See Planned Giving for further details.
Financial Benefits of Land Preservation
Land preservation benefits the landowner as well as his/her surrounding communities. For every single family home built, municipalities in our region assess $4,000, $10,000, and sometimes more in property taxes. However, the cost to provide utilities, roadways, police and firefighter services, education, and all of the amenities that we expect far exceeds the increase in tax revenue. Over-development is a financial drain on the municipalities of our region. With better planning for land preservation and focused development, municipalities might avoid sprawl, preserve the character of their town center, provide recreation space for their residents and protect the water supply and air quality for their community.
Landowners who preserve their lands may also derive a financial benefit. The landowner may be eligible to receive tax benefits by being able to deduct the value of a donation of land, or a donation of the development rights on the land, from his or her taxes for up to six years. A landowner who restricts development on his or her property by placing a conservation easement on the property may also reduce annual property taxes. D&R Greenway strongly urges landowners to consult with their personal tax advisors regarding eligible deductions.