When the housing bubble burst and credit markets tightened most land developers retreated to the sidelines or closed up shop. This created opportunities for public agencies and land trusts to acquire land for conservation purposes. Supply and demand dynamics for land conservation versus land development are often countercyclical. When demand for developable land is strong, land values are high and it is difficult – and more expensive – for conservation buyers to compete. When development pressure is soft – as it has been for the last 3 three years in many locations in the US – land values are lower and there is less competition from developers. As a result, public agencies and non-profits have emerged as some of the most active buyers of land today, largely because of access to public funding approved in previous years and an increase in private philanthropy that supports the conservation of natural resources.
Landowners currently have a unique opportunity to maximize the value of their property and to see their land protected in perpetuity. This can be done through an outright sale of the land or through the sale of conservation easements or agricultural preservation restrictions to conservation groups, public agencies or municipalities. New funding sources have been established to encourage these conservation acquisitions. For example, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has created a funding program for Landscape level projects with multiple projects exceeding 500 acres or more. The program will pay half the cost of the acquisition plus a portion of eligible expenses. In addition, the Commonwealth has established a tax credit for gifts and bargain sales up to $50,000 per transaction.
LandVest has represented multiple landowners in the planning and sale of land for conservation. When LandVest is engaged conservation buyers know that they have a singular opportunity to get a deal done before the property is sold for other purposes. With land conservation deals appearing to be at an all-time high, landowners can benefit from experienced advisors who know how to negotiate on their behalf and facilitate these kinds of transactions. Recent LandVest projects include:
• 24 acres in Weymouth, Massachusetts, representing the largest undeveloped tract of land left in the town, with sweeping views to Boston and the North Shore. Elected officials unanimously voted for the acquisition of the property which was purchased for full market value, $1,850,000, in August 2011. From start to finish the acquisition process took less than 4 months.
• 228 acres in Ipswich, MA. The Trust for Public Land working in coalition with the town , the state and Essex Country Greenbelt, purchased a Conservation Easement and Agricultural Preservation Restriction for $5,100,000 on one of the largest privately owned agricultural estates off Argilla Road. April 2010
• 80+ acres in Rowley, MA representing a critical inholding within the 8,000+ acre Great Marsh on Boston’s North Shore. The Massachusetts Audubon Society was the buyer. Price: $2,370,000
• 83+ acres in Sherborn, MA purchased by the Sherborn Rural Land Foundation for conservation. Price : $1,500,000 – June 2011
• LandVest provided consulting services to a major forest landowner in northern California to design and market a CR over forestlands in excess of 8,200 acres with a market value of more than $8.4 million. Funding will be from a combination of public funds and private philanthropy. Dec 2010
• LandVest provided advisory services to a landowner in Sandisfield, MA, who made a gift of a CR over 1,238 acres of forest and farmland valued in excess of $1.2 million to the New England Forestry Foundation, the third largest CR gift in Mass history and the largest in more than 35 years. – Dec. 2010
• A conservation restriction on 155 acres of religious order lands in Petersham, MA purchased by a partnership between the Town and the East Quabbin Land Trust for $400,000 was facilitated by LandVest using a combination of public funding and private philanthropy – June 2010
This blog post has been brought to you by Nick Pratt, Slater Anderson, James Monahan and Keith Ross, Project Managers in LandVest’s Real Estate Consulting Group, specializing in in all aspects of land transactions.