This is an aerial view of Windrock, the beloved family homestead on Buzzard's Bay in Wareham, Massachusetts. A bit more than 300' wide and a mile long, these 33 acres have been in the family for 60 years. As I have posted here, two generations of us are fighting to save this land for our children and grandchildren, and are negotiating the sale of a conservation easement over 2/3 of the property to allow us to do so.
This map shows the property outlined in red and with what appear to be several internal divisions. Those bright white driveways of our neighbors are crushed clam and oyster shells, but our driveway is under a closed canopy of trees.
We are considering selling a conservation easement (called conservation restrictions or CRs in Massachusetts) over all but the 12 acre piece closest to the shore. The amount we were initially offered for extinguishing development rights on the remainder does not make our numbers work, so we are also considering selling an easement over only 18 acres and retaining two 1.5 acre buildable lots out by the road next to the golf course. The little wedge-shaped panhandle is at the entrance to our driveway and is 180' wide to so that we would retain frontage for ourselves in a development scenario where we can't make the conservation transaction work and have to develop not one or two but four lots out by the road.
This map forms the basis of our conservation negotiations, which are complicated because we are selling extinguished building rights to retain ownership in the land. There is a buyer's market for extinguished rights and they do not pay the full equivalent of the appraised development value of the property. Some families can take advantage of a bargain sale at <85% of fair market value and realize substantial federal income tax deductions, but we are not likely to qualify. We have a strong conservation ethic but a range of financial capacity across the family, and we have a limited amount of time to replenish the trust that my grandparents lovingly established to care for the property. Summer rental and family contributions will help keep us afloat, but either through development or conservation we need to tap some of the equity in the land as well.
I am a conservation professional and have been on the land trust side of such transactions more times than I can count. I have also helped private landowners negotiate with land trusts. There is no question, though, that saving family land is even harder when it is your own.