Conservation easements may be a win-win situation for property owners and society at large. Environmental enthusiasts can appreciate the protection of tracks of wilderness, while history buffs can relish in the protection of buildings of cultural or historical significance. Meanwhile property owners of land with conservation easements may also benefit from property tax exemptions. If you happen to be in a position to do this, a real estate attorney with experience in creating such easements is the best first step to enhancing the community around you.
Real Estate Attorney Bret Jones Suggests Considering a Conservation Easement
Yet, as any real estate attorney can tell you, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to real estate development. Successful real estate ventures are associated with a healthy economy. Although the success of the economy is important, it is also important to encourage smart growth. Land is a finite resource, and it is important to preserve wilderness for future generations. Conservation easements and related property tax exemptions may provide that missing ingredient, by encouraging a balance between environmental protection without totally sacrificing the economic benefit of owning land.
Land is a Finite Resource
You’ve probably heard that the population is steadily growing worldwide. With population growth, comes the needs for more accessibility to housing and other services. Businesses and housing developments require land to be built upon. The exception is if they are taking the place of existing housing developments or businesses. The necessity of land, or the idea that land is a finite resource, may be best seen when abroad or in a city. You’ll get the same expression of truth from a real estate attorney.
In Central Florida, we still have a lot of wilderness. There are many old orange groves available for both commercial and residential real estate development. At the same time, the development of this land may not interfere with the available land used for agricultural purposes such as livestock or crops. Land available for development appears to be plentiful. So, it’s easy to think that there is plenty of land to develop for houses, new businesses, etc. However, in other parts of the United States or in other countries around the world, this is not the case.
Real Estate Development in Other Parts of the World
Take for instance the United Kingdom, more specifically the country of England within the United Kingdom. In England, it is more apparent that land isn’t as plentiful as it is in the United States. A good example of this would be in the popularity of semi-detached homes. When traveling England, you will see houses that “stand alone” or are detached. Semi-detached homes are far more commonplace. Besides the historical and economic reasons behind the common semi-detached homes in England, semi-detached homes make sense from a limited land standpoint. When duplexes, twins, or semi-detached homes are joined, they take up less land than a stand alone or detached house. Understanding that land is a finite resource, we realize that smart real estate development is imperative for our societal well-being.
Kids Need Wild Places, Too.
Today, you’re likely to see many children staring at an iPhone, IPad, or Television screen. Although there are benefits to technology, many bemoan the state of childhood today. The vast infiltration of technology is the main concern. Many people recollect when their parents made them “go outside and play.” Yet how can the children today be expected to “go outside and play” when places to play outside are increasingly limited? Someone coined the phrase, “Kids need wild places, too.” Conservation easements can encourage the protection and enjoyment of “wild places” for children and future generations. A real estate attorney can help you decide if a conservation easement would be smart for your property.
What are conservation easements?
Florida Statute 704.06 defines and details the creation, acquisition, and enforcement of conservation easements in Florida. Conversation easements include more than natural habitats. They are not simply full of wildlife like swamps, marshes, and pine flatwoods. Properties that can fall under the protection of conservation easements include properties or sites of architectural or cultural significance. Florida Statute 704.06(1) defines a conservation easement as:
“a right or interest in real property which is appropriate to retaining land or water areas predominantly in their natural, scenic, open, agricultural, or wooded condition; retaining such areas as suitable habitat for fish, plants, or wildlife; retaining the structural integrity or physical appearance of sites or properties of historical, architectural, archaeological, or cultural significance; or maintaining existing land uses and which prohibits or limits any or all of the following…”
As specified further in Florida Statute 704.06(1), some activities are prohibited or limited on such land. They include the construction of buildings, dumping waste, removal of vegetation, and more. Curious about the length and the creation of conservation easements? Florida Statute 704.06(2) specifies:
“Conservation easements are perpetual, undivided interests in property and may be created or stated in the form of a restriction, easement, covenant, or condition in any deed, will, or other instrument executed by or on behalf of the owner of the property, or in any order of taking.”
Additionally, it is important to note that, “Conservation easements shall run with the land and be binding on all subsequent owners of the servient estate.” Florida Statute 704.06(4). A real estate attorney can decode legalese. They can explain what phrases such as “run with the land” mean. Speaking with a real estate lawyer can help you decide whether you qualify for a property tax exemption as well.
Do you qualify for a conservation easement property tax exemption?
Perhaps you qualify for a conservation easement property tax exemption. Florida Statute 196.1961 and 196.1998 detail requirements applicable to historic property, while Florida Statute 196.26 describes what is required to qualify for “exemption for real property dedicated in perpetuity for conservation purposes.” A real estate lawyer can help you determine whether you would qualify for a conservation easement property tax exemption.
At Bret Jones, P.A., a real estate attorney would walk you through the process of determining what is in your best interests when it comes to conservation easements. The benefits conserving land for future generations is apparent, but is also important for a property owner to consider if there may be benefits for them as well. Conservation easements may benefit both the property owner and others. Contact a real estate attorney at Bret Jones, P.A. to discuss your options, and see if a conservation easement is the right avenue for you.