Leaving a Legacy often comes not from building grandiose memorials or structures, but from the simple act of preserving land. Many Fauquier County residents have decided to pursue land preservation by placing their properties in conservation easements. A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement that allows a landowner to maintain the natural beauty or historic value of his or her property and retain full ownership and care of the land, while conveying some property interest to a qualified organization or government agency. Property owners who donate easements may be eligible for a charitable contribution deduction from their state and/or federal income taxes.
A conservation easement is a relatively flexible tool. It can be crafted to meet the specific characteristics of a property and the landowner’s interest in owning a property that will continue to provide a viable productive use. Fauquier County proudly promotes and sponsors many conservation easement programs. We suggest that you contact the programs listed below for more information, and then consult your attorney and tax accountant to determine the program that is right for you.
Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) Conservation Easement Program: The Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) was created by the General Assembly in 1966. It is the largest holder of open space easements in the State of Virginia. In fact, over the last decade, VOF has preserved open space in Virginia at a rate of about 5 acres every hour. VOF holds easements in perpetuity that protect a wide variety of natural resources, including watershed areas, scenic views, lands adjacent to public parks and game preserves, community lands, and more. VOF also accepts donations of land.
Virginia Historic Preservation Easement Program: Sections §10.1-2202.1 and 10.1-2202.2 of the Code of Virginia enable the state, through the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR), to accept donations of easements on properties that have architectural, archaeological, or historic value. Easements are negotiated on a case by case basis between the landowner and DHR, but generally, for historic buildings, the easement requires the surrender of the right to modify the exterior of a building without permission from the easement holder or to develop the surrounding land in such a way that it would compromise the integrity of the historic property. For battlefield land or archaeological sites, the easement typically requires that no excavation takes place without coordination with DHR. A property must be listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register, either individually or as a contributing property to a historic district. Battlefield land may qualify for an easement without listing.
Fauquier County Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) Program: Because farmland is critical for sustaining the agricultural economic engine in Fauquier County, the Board of Supervisors established the Fauquier County Purchase of Development Rights in 2002. The PDR Program is a voluntary program administered by the Agricultural Development Department in which landowners sell development rights to the County while the land stays in agricultural production, ensuring that future generations will be able to farm the land. The farmer retains land ownership and continues to farm, while receiving a cash payment based on the total number of development rights extinguished on the property. This transaction requires that the owner place an easement on the property. A parcel must be in excess of 50 acres to qualify; however, a combination of multiple, contiguous parcels that together are in excess of 50 acres may also qualify. Long-range environmental benefits for the community may include the preservation of wildlife habitats, clean air and water, flood control, and groundwater recharge and carbon sequestration.
Land Trust of Virginia: Since its founding in 1992, the Land Trust of Virginia, a non-profit land trust, has worked to protect open space, historic heritage, natural resources, farms, forests, and water, in perpetuity.
Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC): PEC works with landowners to develop conservation easements that establish permanent limits on future development while protecting the conservation values of the land. Each easement is unique, with terms negotiated between the landowner and PEC. Except for those relinquished rights recorded in the easement document, the landowner retains ownership, use and control of the land.
The Nature Conservancy: The Nature Conservancy works with landowners to develop permanent conservation easements to keep land in private hands and protect the habitats needed to ensure the continuity of Earth's biodiversity.
Marsh Resources, LLC.: Marsh Resources works with landowners to negotiate and hold easements on properties having existing or potential wetland sites. The easements are held in perpetuity for use as mitigation sites for wetland impacts or sold as mitigation credits.
Foggy Bottom Wetlands, LLC: Foggy Bottom Wetlands works with landowners to identify land that is ideally suited for wetlands creation and stream restoration to establish a wetlands/stream mitigation bank. The mitigation banking process places a conservation easement on the land for the purpose of preserving wetland and streams.
The Fauquier County Conservation Easement Incentive Overlay District: Established to preserve agricultural and historic resources, open space, parks and future transportation corridors, this Zoning Ordinance tool allows residential density to be increased within certain Service Districts through the Special Exception process, in exchange for placing conservation easements on the resources to be saved.