Application Selection, Land Planning and Appraisals

A conservation easement entails two distinct phases: Acquisition and stewardship. Acquisition encompasses the period between application selection and the real estate closing.

The diagram below depicts WAC’s acquisition process from application to closing (payment). Acquisition consists of 5 distinct phases: Applicant Selection, Land Planning, Appraisal, Offer period, and the Purchase and Sales Contract period (which includes closing). The Easement Committee functions as the deliberative oversight body governing the easement program and Easement Committee approval (vote) is required at every stage of the acquisition process. The Easement Committee meets monthly to review and vote on conservation easement projects as projects advance through the acquisition process.

Once a property is selected (Applicant Selection), design of a conservation easement usually takes several months, depending on the size of a property, nature of agricultural operations and title, and ownership and estate planning issues that may be associated with the property. Once the proposed conservation easement design has been drafted and approved by the easement committee following WACs Land Planning Guidelines, the proposed easement is appraised to determine its value. Appraisals may also take several months for the appraiser to complete and for the easement committee to approve. The appraised value of the conservation easement becomes the basis for the offer to the landowner. WAC pays for all appraisals and staff time required to design a proposed conservation easement.

diagram1

Purchase and Sales Contracts

If a landowner accepts WACs offer, a Purchase and Sales contract is signed between WAC and the landowner. The contract establishes the necessary requirements to complete the transaction. The duration of the Purchase Sales contract is generally one year. Soon after signing of the Purchase and Sales Contract, WAC makes a 3-percent (of the value of the conservation easement) downpayment to the landowner, with the remaining 97 percent of the value of the conservation easement paid upon closing.

While in contract, WAC staff works with the landowner and WAC contractors to complete a metes and bounds survey of the property, an Environmental Site Assessment (Phase I), Title Search and a Commitment to Title Insurance. WAC pays for the cost of all services while in contract with a landowner.

WAC utilizes the services of the following contractors to complete all work required under the terms of the Purchase Sales Contract:

Appraisals
Farm Credit East, ACA
McGrath and Company, Inc
R.P. Hubbell and Company, Inc.

Legal Services
Acquisitions: Whiteman, Osterman & Hanna, LLP
Stewardship: Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC

Engineering Services
Rettew Engineering and Surveying, PC
Catskill Region Survey Services, PC

Environmental Site Assessment
O’ Brien & Gere Engineers, Inc.
The Chazen Companies

After WAC acquires the easement, the stewardship phase begins, during which WAC inspects the property periodically and works with the landowner on any issues that might arise in relation to the easement such as: routine maintenance of the Whole Farm Plan, review of landowner requests for activities requiring approvals, clarifying expectations and obligations related to easement language, and other such issues. After the transaction is complete, New York City thereafter pays a proportion of the property tax bills to local taxing authorities.