A Citizen's Primer on Open Space and Farmland Preservation Strategies
At the northern reach of the Quinebaug River in Connecticut, Woodstock has long enjoyed an agricultural heritage due to fertile soils and a temperate climate. Gently rolling hills, open fields, forests and waterways have been valued not only for their scenic beauty, but also for their economic potential and the contributions that these resources have made for centuries to the quality of life in the region. Agriculture, dairy farming, timber harvesting and recreational opportunities are only some of Woodstock's assets. The agrarian economy has fostered village centers and neighborhoods that are now part of the precious New England landscapes.
However, there is enormous pressure to develop the "Last Green Valley" of which Woodstock is a part, as it forms the hub of at least four major metropolitan areas on the corridor between Boston and Washington D.C. Farmland is being irreversibly lost to commercial and residential development, timberlands and their wildlife habitats are becoming fragmented, and the backdrops of the historic villages are threatened by suburban style sprawl.
At the turn of this century, the citizens of Woodstock and surrounding areas have the historic opportunity to contribute to the preservation of farmland and open space, and in doing so, preserve the unique character of this region. This brochure provides an overview of the possibilities.
It is strongly recommended that property owners consult with an attorney and/or tax consultant to determine the most appropriate tool for each situation.
OPEN SPACE AND FARMLAND PRESERVATION STRATEGIES
- Outright Conveyance: Land may be transferred to the town, a local land trust, or nature conservancy through a donation, "Bargain Sale", or sale at fair market value. Restrictions may be imposed on the future use of the property, according to the donor's wishes.
- Transfer in Trust: Property, or a lesser interest therein, may be donated to a nonprofit organization such as a local, state, or national land conservation or historic trust, for the purpose of carrying out personal wishes with respect to the property's preservation and use. This is an effective method of assuring the perpetuation of the donor's intentions where restricted use is a primary concern.
- Reservation of Life Estate (Remainder Interest): In making a gift of land, and a personal residence if located on the property, a life estate may be reserved which permits use of the property (farm and/or residence) for the remainder of the donor's life or, if so stipulated, for the lives of the spouse and children.
- Conservation Easement (Conservation Restriction): A conservation easement is a legal agreement that a property owner makes to restrict the type and amount of development that may take place on a property to preserve natural/historic resources. Each easement's restrictions are tailored to the particular property and the interests of the individual owner. An easement "runs with the land", which means that the original owner and all subsequent owners are bound by the restrictions of the easement.
- Testamentary Gift (Devise): A gift of land by means of a will, may include one or more of the alternatives previously discussed, including a conservation easement and reservation of life estates.
- Endowment: The gift of land may be accompanied by an endowment fund for the purpose of supporting the conservation effort in perpetuity.
There are many other ways to support land conservation efforts including granting a "right of first refusal" to a land trust; lease of land to a land trust or to an agricultural interest so that it may be maintained in productivity; exchanging mutual covenants with neighboring land owners to preserve significant features or views; entering into a management agreement with a land trust or government agency to manage wildlife habitat; creation of charitable annuities and charitable remainder trusts allowing an owner to transfer land to a conservation organization while realizing income and/or tax benefits; and purchase of development rights by the State to create a conservation easement on agricultural land.
What is the Woodstock Open Space Land Acquisition and Preservation Committee?
The Open Space Land Acquisition and Preservation Committee serves at the pleasure of the Woodstock Board of Selectmen, and is charged with identifying and prioritizing potential acquisitions of land or interests in land for open space, passive recreation or agricultural purposes. Working within the framework of the Plan of Conservation and Development and the Conservation Commission's Plan of Open Space and Conservation, the Committee makes recommendations to the Board of Selectmen regarding land acquisition and other proper uses of the Agricultural Land Preservation and Land Acquisition Fund. The Committee continues to explore additional sources of funding for land acquisition and preservation efforts, as well as to provide the public with information through resources such as this brochure.
Please call the Office of the Selectmen at (860) 928-0208, or attend the Committee's monthly meeting held at Woodstock Town Hall on the fourth Wednesday of the month, for more information.
Local Land Trusts
- The New Roxbury Land Trust, Inc. a local, nonprofit, membership supported land trust works to protect open space and conserve agricultural lands. P.O. Box 98 Woodstock, CT 06281-0098 (860) 928-9729 www.nrlt.org
- Wolf Den Land Trust accepts land and conservation easements in this general area. P.O Box 404 Brooklyn, CT 06234-0404. (860) 974-1991
- Wyndham Land Trust protects natural resources by allowing land to return to its natural state. Contact the Trust through the local Audubon Society office listed below.
Other Non-profit, Non-government Conservation Organizations that Accept, Manage or Buy Land
- Connecticut Audubon Society is an independent, nonprofit membership supported organization dedicated to environmental education and conservation. 189 Pomfret Street Pomfret, CT 06258 (860) 928-4948 www.ctaudubon.org
- The Nature Conservancy focuses on protection of land that is important for wildlife corridors and rare species. 189 Pomfret Street Pomfret, CT 06258 (860) 928-2700 www.tnc.org
- The Trust for Public Land in New England conserves land for people to improve the quality of life in our communities and protect our natural and historic resources for the future. 33 Union Street Fourth Floor, Boston, MA (617) 367-6200 www.tpl.org
- Connecticut Forest and Park Association is a private, nonprofit conservation organization.16 Meriden Road Rockfall, CT 06481 860) 346-2372 www.ctwoodlands.org
- Woodstock Open Space Land Acquisition and Preservation Committee advises town selectmen on issues of open space land acquisition and farmland preservation. 415 Route 169 Woodstock, CT 06281 (860) 928-0208 www.townofwoodstock.com
- Woodstock Open Space Preservation Group is a nonprofit citizen's group dedicated to protecting Open Space and promoting responsible land use in Woodstock. http://members.aol.com/wospg
- New England Small Farm Institute is a nonprofit corporation promoting increased and sustainable use of the region's agricultural resources, focusing on farmland transfer programs and services. P.O. Box 608 Belchertown, MA 01007 (413) 323-4531 www.smallfarm.org
- The Green Valley Institute provides information, education, volunteerism and technical assistance on land use and natural resources. Quinebaug-Shetucket Heritage Corridor (860) 963-7226 www.thelastgreenvalley.org
- UCONN Cooperative Extension System (860) 774-9600
- Conservation Law Foundation is a nonprofit member-supported organization that works to solve environmental problems that threaten the people, natural resources and communities of New England. 62 Summer Street, Boston, MA 02110 (617) 350-0990 www.clf.org
- The Southern New England Forest Consortium publishes a guide to estate planning, available from them at Box 760, Chepachet, RI 02814 (401) 568-1610 www.greenfornewengland.org/members/snefci.html.
- Working Lands Alliance is a broad-based coalition that advocates in the state government for programs that support farmland preservation. 509 Wethersfield Avenue Hartford, CT 06114 (860) 296-9325 www.workinglandsalliance.org
- The Connecticut Farmland Trust is a statewide land trust formed in 2002 to preserve and protect CT's agricultural land for agricultural use. They protect farmland directly (easements, fee, donations) and provide technical assistance to land trusts and communities across the state.c/o Hartford Food System, 509 Wethersfield Ave., Hartford, CT 06114 (860) 296-9325
- The American Farmland Trust is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to protecting our nation's strategic agricultural resources.