Q. 1. What is a conservation easement?
A1. It is a voluntary contract by a landowner placing restrictions on future use of all or part of the property in order to protect scenic and wildlife resources. The landowner still owns the property and is free to sell it, but the restrictions of the easement stay with the land forever. In the present case, the contract is with the Land Trust for Tennessee and they must approve and enforce the terms of the easement in perpetuity. Easement restrictions can be tailored appropriately and may, for instance, cover the back part of the property with restrictions only against building permanent structures and felling large trees (unless they are a safety threat). More about conservation easements.
Q. 2. Does a landowner give up ownership of the section covered by a conservation easement?
A. 2. No. The property continues to belong to the landowner.
Q. 3. Is a conservation easement the same as an overlay?
A. 3. No. An overlay is a governmental requirement that limits development rights; a conservation easement is a voluntary agreement by a landowner, and the area remains private/residential. A conservation easement takes precedence over zoning laws.
Q. 4. Who decides what part of a property goes into the conservation easement?
A. 4. The portion of the property that is restricted is determined by the landowner and later coordinated with other residents in the easement group.
Q. 5. What are the usual restrictions?
A. 5. The restrictions are minimal–typically no building of new permanent structures on the part under easement (owners retain the right to remove diseased or dangerous trees).
Q. 6. Who maintains the conservation easement?
A. 6. In the West Meade Conservancy’s case, a landowner (grantor) designates The Land Trust for Tennessee as the primary grantee of the conservation easement, and The Land Trust for Tennessee must agree to maintain that easement in perpetuity.
Q. 7. Will having a conservation easement lower a property’s value?
A. 7. The expected effect of a conservation easement on a property in a neighborhood with an easement collection is increased value. Living near preserved green space attracts buyers. [See “Why I Support the WMC’s Mission“]
Q. 8. How do I show interest in possibly being part of the West Meade Conservancy’s conservation easement groups?
A. 8. Download a Landowner Registration Form and a Lot Diagram, or request these things in the “Contact Us” section of this website. The registration form is only an indication of intent, not a final, legal document, so your marked diagram will be an approximation. Obtaining an official conservation easement is a complicated process and requires the approval of the Land Trust for Tennessee and approval of your mortgage holder, if any.