Over many decades, SVT has assisted in hundreds of land conservation transactions. Each conservation project is different because no two properties are the same and each landowner has unique needs. By sharing a few conservation projects with you, SVT hopes to illustrate how your land may be conserved. For more information on how you could work with SVT to conserve your land, see our Ways to Conserve Your Land
Herene, Stow – Donation of Land
One of SVT’s main functions is to partner with property owners who wish to have their property protected from future development. A property owner may donate either a fee ownership or a conservation restriction to SVT. Because SVT is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, with a mission of preserving land for present and future generations, the fair
market value of such a gift is considered tax deductible by the IRS.
Since childhood, Candace Herene enjoyed spending time on 15 acres of land her family owned along Elizabeth Brook in Stow. She approached SVT in the summer of 2007 about possibly donating this land. SVT visited the site and saw first hand the wildlife habitat it provided. SVT also researched the property to find out whether it provides habitat for State endangered or threatened species – which it did!
As is normal with all land protection projects, SVT needed to perform due diligence to ensure that no potential liabilities may exist within the 15 acres. This included a Phase I Environmental Assessment. Once SVT was assured there were no liabilities and SVT’s Board approved accepting the donation, Ms. Herene was able to permanently protect this important wildlife habitat.
Because of this generous donation, SVT calls the property the Herene Reservation.
Rawstron, Northborough – Donation of Conservation Restriction
Conservation Restrictions are the best method of protection for landowners who wish to see their property conserved while continuing to use and enjoy it. A property owner may donate a conservation restriction to SVT and because SVT is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, with a mission of preserving land for present and future generations, the fair market value of such a gift is considered tax deductible by the IRS.
Ann and Bill Rawstron are the owners and good stewards of the 62-acre Mentzer Farm in Northborough. Thanks to their generosity and foresight, the property is permanently protected through the donation they made in 2002 of a conservation restriction (CR).
While the CR prohibits the construction of houses, it does allow for forestry and agricultural operations, as well as passive recreational activities such as hiking and cross country skiing. The natural resources protected by the CR include: Howard Brook, a high-quality perennial stream; an extraordinarily diverse and scenic 30-acre meadow; and wooded hillside with a spring-fed seep wetland that provides a respite for wildlife. The Rawstron’s have seen moose on the property, as well as coyote, fisher, and many diverse bird species.
The property complements approximately 400-acres of protected land in the vicinity of Ball Hill, Mount Pisgah, Rocky Pond, and Wrack Meadow in the northwest corner of Town. Several trails also traverse the property, which Bill and Ann encourage the passive recreational use of by the public.
In addition to their commitment to land protection, Bill and Ann challenged the community to match their contribution to provide for the long-term care of the property.
The local neighborhood and SVT membership responded overwhelmingly with contributions from over seventy families to match their gift – a true testament to the Rawstron’s generosity and commitment to conservation and community.
Devine, Berlin – Bargain Sale and Conservation Restriction
In many cases, property owners are not in a position to make an outright donation of their property to SVT. When this is the case, a bargain sale is sometimes a good option for all involved.
A bargain sale is when a landowner agrees to sell his or her property to SVT or a non-profit group at price that is less
than fair market value. The difference between the fair market price and the sale price is considered a donation and is therefore tax-deductible.
In the town of Berlin, SVT assisted in protecting the Devine property by partnering with the Town and also finding a conservation buyer who were willing to allow a conservation restriction to be placed on their property.
The property consists of 83 acres of beautiful farm and forest abutting hundred acres of conservation land. There are two brooks on site with sweeping views across the hay fields to the rising woodlands of Mount Pisgah. The property had the potential to be divided along the frontage into 5 lots, with more aggressive subdivision potential looming.
The owners needed to sell the property, commissioned an appraisal, and listed with a broker for around $2.3 million. SVT was given a short window to try to put together a conservation deal before the property was actively marketed. The owners agreed to discuss the possibility of a bargain sale with their tax advisors.
SVT located a buyer who was willing to purchase 35 acres subject to a conservation restriction that would allow for the property to be used for agriculture and horses. The family agreed to a bargain sale of $1.9 million, and the Town agreed to put up the remainder of the cost for the property (plus SVT’s costs) in return for the remaining 48 acres, co-holding of the conservation restriction, and a parking area/trail easement to access the rear of the property.
The project closed in December, 2004.
Chestnut Hill Farm, Southborough – Purchase and Donation of Conservation Restriction
Many large pieces of land have been handed down in families from generation to generation, and have multiple landowners involved in the decision-making about the land’s future. Some families put their land into trusts, which may not be able to make donations of land or interest in land.
In April 2004, the Beals family approached SVT to discuss the conservation of Chestnut Hill Farm in Southborough.
This property represented one of the town’s most beloved landscapes, and had long been a priority for protection. The family had previously donated a conservation restriction (CR) on 48 acres of the farm to SVT, and wished to protect the remaining 185 acres. These were divided into a 107-acre “Farm Parcel”, 23-acre “Parcel B”, and 55-acre “Red Gate Parcel”. The former two pieces were held in a trust, while the latter piece was owned by Phil and Elaine Beals.
The family had done preliminary planning showing that the Farm Parcel could potentially sustain the construction of at least 38 houses. The Beals family preferred to sell a conservation restriction to the Town and/or SVT, which would permanently conserve the property as a working farm with trail access for the public. Parcel B was to be included in the sale of the CR. The Red Gate Parcel was to be donated to SVT and the Southborough Open Land Foundation (SOLF).
SVT partnered with the Town of Southborough and SOLF to come up with a plan for funding the $5 million acquisition. A $500,000 state Self-Help award provided the impetus to take the project to Town Meeting in January, 2006, where residents unanimously approved the purchase. Using a combination of bonding and Community Preservation funds, the Town committed $4 million to the project. SVT and SOLF were able to raise over $500,000 in private funds to make up the difference.
Malone, Boylston – Purchase, Transfer, and Conservation Restriction
In October of 2000, SVT purchased 120 acres from the estate of Charles Malone for $700,000. The goal of the project was to use a series of conservation strategies and limited development to protect as much of the property as possible.
Thirty acres of the property were retained by SVT and designated as the Mile Hill Woods Reservation. To recover the
substantial purchase price, SVT relied on development of a small portion of the property, including 15 acres that were divided into four small, unrestricted lots and sold to private buyers. Two larger parcels - 26- and 32-acres - were sold to buyers willing to restrict all but a small building envelope through a conservation restriction. These buyers were SVT members who first learned about the conservation project in SVT’s newsletter, The Wren. Finally, nearly 20 acres were sold to the Metropolitan District Commission (now the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation, Water Supply Division) for inclusion in the conservation and water supply protection land surrounding the Wachusett Reservoir.
In total, SVT has protected more than 80% of the Malone land, which otherwise would have been sold for development.
The project closed in 2003.