The Newton Conservators has been successful in protecting land in our community since 1961. By working with private landowners to protect their own properties, and by working with the City of Newton and Community Preservation Act funds, we have protected farming at Newton Community Farm, habitat at Dolan Pond, open space at the Newton Commonwealth Golf Course, and a recreation area at Crystal Lake, to name a few recent notable victories. We also protect land by accepting donated land. Our lovely neighborhood park, Ordway Park, is a wonderful example of this.
We very much want to help you protect your land, if you have an appropriate piece of property.
What kind of land in Newton can we help protect?
Our Board of Directors has established criteria for the sort of land we help protect. We can work with you if your land:
- is natural or scenic, is joined to conservation land, or benefits the neighborhood with its natural properties;
- has been identified by a governmental body as worthy of protection or is subject to environmental regulation;
- has significant natural habitat, is a corridor between such habitats, or supports rare or endangered species;
- contains vegetation that helps to ensure the quality of a water resource.
How can we help?
We have a number of ways we can help you achieve your goals in protecting the land, depending on your individual situation and desires. They are:
(1) We can enter into a Conservation Restriction with you
A Conservation Restriction (CR) is a legally binding document, filed with the Registry of Deeds and approved by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, in which we, as a non-profit organization, agree to ensure that your wishes in protecting your land are carried out. A CR is a wonderful tool for protecting property from development. You and your heirs may continue to own your land as you always have, subject to the restrictions agreed to in the CR. You may sell the land subject to the CR. Our job is to enter into the agreement with you, and make sure that its terms are enforced.
The Trustees of Reservations has prepared a brochure entitled Land Conservation Options that will help you get started on the ins and outs of CRs. That brochure explains the benefits to you when you consider the CR – the peace of mind that comes with knowing your beautiful property will never be developed, and the significant tax incentives the government offers. We cannot tell you exactly what the tax ramifications of entering into a CR with us would be, because every situation is different. Independent tax and legal advice are necessary.
Securing a Conservation Restriction on the property involves a number of steps. We have expertise in all of these things, and are also able to suggest the names of appraisers and lawyers who can assist you.
Some of the steps are:
- securing an appraisal of the property to value the conservation restriction, a key component of the tax benefits of these transactions;
- researching deeds and other appropriate documents;
- drafting and executing a Conservation Restriction.
(2) We can work with you on the possible sale and protection of the property
If your goal is to no longer own the property, but your wish is to protect it, you may be able to sell your property to the City of Newton or another public entity, which can then enter into a CR with us to protect the property. The sale price of the property is generally full market value, and the property will be held under the terms of the CR permanently.
Newton has adopted the Community Preservation Act, through which a portion of our tax revenue is allocated for the acquisition of appropriate open space, as well as for historic preservation and the creation of affordable housing. We have worked with the landowners and the City of Newton to facilitate acquisitions at Crystal Lake, Dolan Pond, and Angino Farm, to name a few.
We can work with you on this process. The steps include those for a CR, plus the additional public process involved in obtaining approval by the CPA Committee and the Board of Aldermen for the use of city CPA funds. We are able to work with you and give you the benefit of our experience.
(3) We can accept a gift of land
Over the years the Conservators have received gifts of land from people who have spent years as owners and stewards, and who want to see the land remain undeveloped.
In 2004, the Conservators received a gift of a quarter acre of steep, wooded land near the Laundry Brook. The neighbors appreciate this small parcel of wild land in their midst.
In 2005, we received a half acre of land that makes up part of a hollow where another brook rises. This half acre could easily have become the backyard of a large, new house. But the owners saw its value in a different context. The hollow occupies the backyards of house lots that front on two streets. The hope of the Conservators and the owners is that their neighbors choose to protect adjoining parcels as well—and that over the years we can protect the rest of the hollow, to leave it natural, as it now stands.
Whether we accept it as a gift, or protect it with a CR, the land we protect must meet our conservation value criteria. We are happy to talk to you about whether your land fits into one of the categories, which are described above. We very much hope you will call on us if you have interest in starting down this road. Newton has special places, and places which can remain special as long as we work together with the goal of preserving a healthy environment.