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Conserve Your Land

NCLT Works with Private Landowners to Achieve Their Conservation Goals

Over our 50 year history, NCLT has worked with upwards of 75 landowners to permanently conserve their property. Land donors not only leave a lasting legacy that benefits the New Canaan community, but are also eligible for tax rebates and other financial incentives. Below is a summary of the various conservation tools that can be used to protect your property, and the different ways that those transactions can occur. NCLT has the resources and know-how to facilitate these transactions, and encourages interested parties to contact us to get the process started.

Transfer of Title

The most common method by which the New Canaan Land Trust obtains properties is through outright title transfer. Using this method, a landowner deeds their entire property, or a portion of their property, to the New Canaan Land Trust. In cases where a portion of one’s property is donated, the size of the carve-off or subdivision will be dependent on the configuration of the lot, zoning requirements and adjacent NCLT properties. When transferring title, some deeded terms may be included, such as preservation in perpetuity and the allowance of visitation by members of the land trust.

Conservation Easement

A conservation easement is a legally binding, voluntary agreement between a landowner and a government, land trust, or other conservation organization. Conservation easements limits certain uses of a property in order to protect their conservation value, and can be adapted to suit both the land owner and easement holder. In most cases in New Canaan, conservation easements terms are designed to prevent development and subdivision of a property, while providing public benefits such as maintained water quality, protected wildlife habitat, or increased recreation opportunities. Unlike with transfer of title, the original landowner still maintains the right to own and use the land after a conservation easement is in place. They may also sell the land or pass it on to their heirs, but the conservation easement will remain with the property in perpetuity.

Transactions and Their Financial Implications

Donation: The most common method by which the New Canaan Land Trust obtains properties and easements is through donation. Donations of land and conservation easements are considered charitable donations, and as such can usually be claimed as a deduction on federal inc one taxes. In the case of outright donation of property, the value of this deduction is determined by an appraiser. In the case of a donated conservation easement, the deduction is determined by the difference between the value of one’s property before and after the easement is put in place. For more information about tax incentives for Land Conservation, visit the Land Trust Alliance’s dedicated information page.

Bargain Sale: Another option for landowners to conserve their land is through a bargain sale of land. If a landowner needs to realize immediate income from selling their land, yet would like the property to be protected by the New Canaan Land Trust, then a bargain sale is a good option. In a bargain sale, the family would sell the land to the New Canaan Land Trust for less than fair market value. This offers several benefits to the family, including immediate cash and a tax deduction based on the difference between the land’s fair market value and the sale price. The New Canaan Land Trust can work with neighbors and land trust donors to provide the balance of funding, but it is important to note that this process can take some time and is not guaranteed.

Traditional Sale: The New Canaan Land Trust can also purchase property, but only does so in exceedingly rare situations. Because we do not have the funds needed to purchase properties immediately when they arrive on the market, further considerations is needed by both the buyer and the seller. At a minimum, the New Canaan Land Trust would require a memorandum of understanding, giving NCLT ample time to raise the funds needed to purchase the property. Being a non-profit, NCLT cannot pay more than the appraised value of a property, and would also need time to conduct the required due diligence on the property. Because the property is sold at market-value, there are no tax benefits for a traditional sale.

Estate Transfer: Perhaps this point in your life is not the appropriate time to engage in a conservation transaction. Estate transfer allows you to donate your property to the New Canaan Land Trust as a legacy gift by putting it in your will or estate plan. This can eliminate hefty estate taxes, and ease the tax burden on your heirs.

Other: There are a number of other options for conveying land to the New Canaan Land Trust, including Conveyance fo Remainder Interest, Donation with Lifetime Income, Rights of First Refusal, and more. NCLT is happy to work with you to find the right conservation option for you and your family.

Next Steps

If you are interested in donating or selling your land or a conservation easement, please contact us! We will be able to explain specific details as they pertain to your property, and work with you to start the process of conserving your land. The New Canaan Land Trust has an Open Space Committee that meets to review potential properties and to assist families in their desire to preserve and protect open space. The New Canaan Land Trust has protected nearly 400 acres of land throughout New Canaan, and looks forward to increasing that number.