Event takes owners through steps for preserving property

Posted: January 16, 2013

The Winchester Star

KERNSTOWN — About 20 local landowners learned about the process of protecting their land through conservation easements during a Tuesday evening workshop.

Hosted by Conservation Partners LLC — a Lexington-based group that helps Virginia landowners preserve and protect their properties — the land conservation easement workshop also focused on educating the landowners about the benefits of creating one.

The event was held at the MidAtlantic Farm Credit Winchester Conference Center.

A conservation easement is a landowner-initiated agreement with either a nonprofit organization or government agency that established limits on how the property can be used or developed and that is legally binding for all future landowners, according to Conservation Partners.

Benefits of easements can include federal and state tax relief and protection of land — in perpetuity — against certain types of development, both residential and commercial, according to Taylor Cole, president of Conservation Partners.

During his presentation, Cole said that approximately 5 percent of eligible public land in Virginia has been protected by conservation easements. He added that easements can play an important role in preserving rural areas of the state from development since the state’s population has almost doubled since 1970 and that about three-fourths of streams in the state are impaired or polluted.

The process of attaining an easement can take from four months to more than a year, with legal and appraisal costs generally between $7,500 and $12,500, Cole said.

Anne Wohlleban and her family have owned about 97 acres of wooded and open land near Mountain Falls — in the western part of Frederick County — since 1968.

She said she attended the workshop because she wants to preserve the rural character of her property for her family.

“There’s been so much development [in Frederick County],” Wohlleban said. “I think the easement can give [landowners] a mechanism [to preserve their land].”

Additional information on Conservation Partners and the easement process is available either online at conservationpartnersllc.com or by calling 540-464-1899.

— Contact Matt Armstrong at marmstrong@winchesterstar.com