A landowner may agree to one or more funding arrangements that require the landowner or successive owners of an eased property to make one or more payments to the easement holder to support stewardship of the property. These arrangements may be customized to fit the stewardship demands created by the particular conservation easement and the financial circumstances of the owner.
Within the bounds of state law and private standards of practice, a nonprofit organization has considerable flexibility in establishing policies and procedures regarding the authorization of real estate transactions.
At closing, the transfer of the real estate interest, whether land or easement, is completed. This guide helps users organize and expedite the closing.
A conservation easement limits certain uses on a property in order to advance specified conservation purposes while keeping the land in the owner’s ownership and control.
Although Pennsylvania common law has supported conservation easements, the Conservation and Preservation Easements Act enables conservation practitioners to avoid a number of weaknesses and ambiguities in common law. To take advantage of the Act, the conservation easement document must be written in conformance with the statute’s standards.
The holder of a conservation easement must monitor the eased property to confirm compliance with conservation restrictions and, when necessary, take action to uphold the conservation objectives of the easement. These and other stewardship activities result in costs, year in and year out, to the holder.
To responsibly accomplish a conservation easement or land acquisition, due diligence is necessary. This guide describes the costs incurred by land trusts and agricultural land preservation boards in completing surveys, baseline documentation, appraisals, title search and insurance, phase 1 environmental assessments and legal services in support of conservation acquisitions.
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GPS (the Global Positioning System) can be used freely by anyone almost anywhere near the earth. GPS enables users to record the location of structures, easement boundaries, where a photograph is taken, and other geographic information useful to conservation. Users can then import this information into computer mapping programs.
When a document needs to be reviewed, edited and approved by more than one person, good document management and control practices help prevent time-consuming missteps and confusion for all the parties involved.
The best form to document an agreement to sell or donate land and easements will vary with the particular facts and circumstances of the project. Purchase options, sales agreements and donation agreements all have their place.
The Model Grant of Conservation Easement and Commentary provides users with a model legal document and expansive guidance covering alternative and optional provisions and the reasoning behind it all. Plain language, user-friendliness, flexibility and best practices are key design elements. It is regularly updated to reflect advances in the field.
The Pennsylvania Land Trust Association maintains a suite of model legal documents to help implement conservation transactions and other conservation-related activities. The accompanying commentaries contain alternative and optional provisions and explain the reasoning behind it all.
When a mortgage precedes an easement on a property, there is no guaranty of perpetual enforceability of the easement unless the Mortgage Holder signs a document (sometimes called a "mortgage subordination") that allows the easement to survive a foreclosure of the mortgage. While not easy or quick to obtain, careful preparation that addresses the concerns of the Mortgage Holder can expedite the process.
An option to sell may be used to assure that a property acquisition can be undone if expectations are not met.
Before investing time and money in a prospective project, a conservation organization may seek to minimize the potential for misunderstandings with the prospective donor for the project and make the donor’s promise to support the project a legally binding obligation.
A purchase option is a right to purchase or lease land or other property interests without any obligation to do so.
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Pennsylvania’s Recreational Use of Land and Water Act limits the liability, resulting from personal injury or property damage, of landowners who make their land available to the public for recreation free of charge.
Public access to property for recreational uses – such as hiking, bird watching, fishing and hunting – raises concern about the possibility of liability on account of injury to a recreational user. Pennsylvania law provides some protection from liability associated with public use of property for recreational purposes. Also there are practical steps that can be taken to minimize risk of liability.
The ownership of real estate can be divided into present and future interests. This division enables a landowner to convey land to a land trust or government with the owner retaining ownership during the owner’s lifetime or some other specified period. Donation of future interests can result in tax benefits.
A landowner who is concerned about the future use of his land can donate or sell the land on a conditional rather than absolute basis. A reversionary interest is created by a deed that reserves to the grantor a future ownership right upon the occurrence of some condition.
A right of first purchase gives a potential purchaser the opportunity to purchase before a property is sold to another. It can be a right of first offer, a right of first negotiation, a right of first refusal or a combination of these rights.
A riparian buffer protection agreement limits activities on all or a portion of a property to advance conservation purposes while keeping the property in the control of the landowner.
A landowner may grant a trail easement to a nonprofit organization or government to allow the nonprofit or government to construct or maintain a public trail on the private property.