In the News  Archive

Conservation legislation celebrated locally

The Sun Community News
January 8, 2016

LAKE GEORGE — A vote in Washington earlier this month is being celebrated locally, as tax incentives for the creation of conservation easements were approved.

“It makes a real difference in water quality and recreation,” said John Sheehan, Adirondack Council director of communications.

In addition to helping keep forests in tact, helping to filter run off and recharging the water supply, Sheehan said farmland could remain as undeveloped land.

While landowners may be encouraged by the tax incentive to create the easements, they are not the only to benefit from the program, according to Jordyn Conway, development associate for the Lake George Land Conservancy. The LGLC already manages 12 such easements that includes 840 acres, 300 feet of lake shoreline, and thousands of feet along stream corridors, as the program was enacted in 2006 on a temporary basis.

The draw for tourists, potential increases in neighboring property values are a resulting economic benefit, said Conway, and may be one way to offset the decrease in property tax revenue for municipalities.

The enhanced tax incentives for property owners that create the conservation easements on their land carry on for 15 years, explained LGLC Executive Director Jamie Brown.

The easements are voluntary and restrict certain uses, dependent upon the individual agreement.“We work as partners,” said Brown of the LGLC and landowners.

The property remains in the ownership of the land owner. It can be sold or mortgaged. “You can still build on it, even cut trees. It all depends on the agreement. Some are very restrictive,” he said. “It continues to stay on tax roll, but may have a lesser value.” That value can be affected by how limiting the restrictions are.

For example, if one property accepted by LGLC had the ability to have several home built on it, it would be assessed for that value. After the easements are in place, the property is assessed again. A chunk of land that is now restricted from building new homes, would be worth less. The decrease in value can be used for tax purposes the year it occurred and the following 15 years for up to 50 percent of adjusted gross income.

Before accepting conservation easements, LGLC considers that potential impact and works with those that could be affected, said Conway. The land must also meet the needs of the LGLC mission.

Brown said there have been times in the agency’s history when a donation was not accepted. “Sometimes, they might be better building lots. We aren’t against development,” he said.

Properties that are especially attractive to LGLC are those that connect with already owned properties, as well as those with steep inclines that could affect run-off into the lake. Established wildlife and plant life also play a role in determining the property’s desirability.

Benefits, said Sheehan, can also be seen in other property values. While an easement may affect a donated property’s value, keeping an area pristine and free from development can add value to neighboring land.

Some family- or group-owned properties, explained Sheehan, could have been purchased generations ago, now passed on to family members but with a hefty tax bill attached.

Instead of forcing the sale of land, a conservation easement, could be the answer to maintaining ownership.

The properties are inspected annually to ensure the agreements are being followed. LGLC is a member of the Land Trust Alliance, the national land conservation organization that led the campaign for permanence. LGLC was among the 1,100 land trusts across the country to support the enhanced incentive through a collaborative, multi-year campaign

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