Wake County is actively considering additional tools and programs to assist landowners in preserving open space. We currently are implementing a Partnership Grant Program with area municipalities and nonprofits to plan and acquire land with monies allocated by the Board of Commissioners. We will continue to seek permanent sources of money to support future land acquisition. If you are interested in contributing to Wake County's Open Space Program, consider pursuing one of the alternatives below.
How Can You Contribute to Wake County's Open Space Program?
1) Stay Informed
A first step to contributing to any initiative is learning about it and being able to communicate its goals and objectives to other people. Reading the documents on this website—such as the Consolidated Open Space Plan (COSP), OSAPAC minutes and Working Lands Task Force newsletters—is a good place to begin supporting the Open Space Program.
2) Educate Others
One very helpful activity you can get involved with is simply to help spread the word about the value of open space. Print and distribute copies of the Open Space Program's brochure. If you don't speak up, who will? Let your elected representatives know how important it is to you.
3) Get involved with a local land trust
There are nonprofit agencies in the Triangle whose mission is to purchase and preserve open lands. You can volunteer, or perhaps send a tax-deductible financial contribution to one or more of these organizations. Contact the Conservation Trust for North Carolina for more information at 919-828-4199.
4) Land Sale or Donation
Perhaps you have some land or a portion of a lot you cannot use and wish to donate it for open space preservation. If it is in Wake County's jurisdiction, our staff will examine it based on its potential value as open space. If accepting the land fits in with our Open Space Plan recommendations (not all parcels will), staff will forward the proposal to the proper authorities.
5) Consider a Conservation Easement
When you own land, you not only own the ground itself but also a "bundle of rights" that governs what you can and cannot do with your property. A conservation easement is simply a legal document that transfers some of those rights to the entity holding the easement. For example, one of the "rights" you own may be to develop the land in a manner consistent with local rules. When you grant a conservation easement to an agency or nonprofit organization, you typically forfeit that right. In other words, by granting a conservation easement, you agree to give up some of the "rights" in your bundle.
Typical restrictions include provisions against being able to develop the land and may include restricting the removal of trees and vegetation, altering the natural slope, etc. It may also include provisions allowing the holder of the easement to construct trails, if public access is desired and agreed upon.
There is no "one way" to draft a conservation easement. The restrictions and rights have to be negotiated between the land owner (the grantor) and the easement holder (the grantee). There are several important things to remember about conservation easements...
1. Easements are permanent. They cannot be abandoned or changed unless both parties so agree. Easements carry with the land, which means if you sell the property or it falls into the hands of your heirs, the new owner(s) are also bound by the restrictions.
2. You still own the land underneath the easement. This is important! You are not selling the land covered by an easement. You are just giving up certain rights to do certain things with it, in favor of the management goals of the grantee.
3. There are significant tax advantages that accrue to you as the grantor of an easement. Any land under easement gets taxed at a reduced rate. Your tax bill gets lowered as a result. But to take advantage of these tax savings, you must grant the easement to a governmental agency or nonprofit land trust.
4. Easements can either be donated to a grantee or sold. If you decide to sell an easement to a grantee, a licensed appraiser will calculate the value of the easement before negotiations commence.
Wake County's Open Space Program works with willing landowners to place two types of easements on their land: conservation greenway easements and agricultural conservation easements. Contact the Open Space Program for additional information.
To learn more about conservation easements, there are several excellent publications available for a nominal fee (around one dollar or so) from the Conservation Trust for North Carolina.