Saving Land in the Development Process

Conservation with Limited Development

 We acknowledge that it may be possible and, where appropriate, desirable to save more land by working in limited development partnerships.  Although Land Trusts are not in the business of developing land, we are increasingly open to the idea that there may be great conservation outcomes that result from thoughtfully designed and implemented developnment projects.  Some of our communities have zoning regulations that set aside a certain percentage of land in a subdivision as protected open space.  Others provide for a fee in lieu of setting aside land of marginal conservation value that can then be used to acquire more appropriate lands for conservation.  

Although it is not our default position, most of us would agree that it can be preferable to save a large piece of land with a small amount of development than to lose the opportunity to save any of it.  Particularly during times of limited philanthropic respources for land protection, it makes sense to explore ways to engage investor dollars to save criticially important properties that would otherwise be unavailable for conservation. 

Greenprint Criteria for Limited Development Partnerships

Such conservation development efforts often have a higher profile, attract controversy, and so require an even higher professional standard by all concerned.  Not all limited development proposals meet this higher standard.  For any project that the Greenprint might consider supporting, these must include:

1.  Operational Transparency

  • Clearly defined project selection process, conservation benefits, and deal structure
  • Arms length transactions between for-profit and non-profit entities
  • Fully negotiated conservation easement signed within 365 days of property acquisition
  • Maximum 10% cap on development upside, any excess profit to be donated to an appropriate non-profit land conservation fund and/or stewardship endowment

2.  Clear Conservation Purpose and Design Criteria

  • A minimum of 50% of the Total Buildable Area to be permanently protected.  Land classified as NOT Buildable shall include:

            -  All 100-year Flood Hazard areas as defined by FEMA
            -  65% of all defined inland wetlands and watercourses
            -  50% of all land with a slope in excess of 50%
            -  50% of all land consisting of soils classified as shallow to bedrock
                by the USDA / NRCS
            -  A minimum of 67% of the entire property permanently protected

  • Measureable against regional conservation goals and conservation of high priority resources defined by Litchfield Hills Greenprint
  • Minimizes fragmentation of priority habitat defined by Litchfield Greenprint
  • Buffers all wetlands and watercourses from development by 100’

3.  Demonstrated Local Support

  • Vocal and/or written support of project from local individuals and entities such as elected officials, civic leaders, land trusts
  • Consistent with town and (where applicable) regional plans of conservation and development

    Further, members of the Greenprint Collaborative have agreed to adopt a Conflict of Interest Policy regarding real estate transactions with so-called related parties for any of their limited development projects brought to the Collaborative for its support. Each member should review this policy and the IRS policies and land trust best management practices on which it is based to see whether it should further revise its own organizational policies for other types of real estate transactions with insiders.

    If you are interested in participating in an effort to save land in the development process, we would love to hear from you!

Photo by: Tim Abbott