Longtime Newton Conservators Richard and Andrée Wilson own a beautiful two-acre parcel of property in Newton Centre. Together with a smaller parcel donated to the City years ago, the area has both beautiful gardens and woodlands and provides wonderful habitat to a wide diversity of wildlife.
A very long and winding road led to the recording of a conservation restriction on this property at the end of September. Richard and Andrée worked extremely hard for nearly two years, in spite of significant personal health issues, to see this through. Why, you ask? Andrée’s extensive garden and surrounding area, especially in the spring, simply takes your breath away. And then there were those nesting Merlins-where would they go if another house or two were built on the property? It is easy to understand their wish to leave behind, somewhat intact, a lifetime of work and pleasure in their natural environment.
Under the terms of the agreement, except for the approximately .4 acres on which the current house sits, the property is protected from any future development. Further, a permanent public right of access is established through the property along its southeastern boundary. The public has walked through the property for years, but now an official path has been established. The property remains in private hands, subject to the restriction. It can be sold, but the Conservators, as grantee, must make sure, in perpetuity, that anyone who buys the property adheres to the terms of the restriction: no building outside of the footprint of the house, preservation of the conserved area to maintain conservation values, and preserved public access along the path.
Why did this take so long? Permanent conservation restrictions must be approved by the Conservation Commission, the Board of Aldermen, the Mayor, and the Massachusetts Office of Environmental Affairs. A public benefit must be found. In addition, the IRS must be satisfied that its public benefit criteria are in place for the charitable deduction to be allowed.
Some might wonder how we decide what property we would consider for a conservation restriction. Our criteria, as well as other useful information about conservation restrictions and donating land, can be found on our website.
Our criteria are that the 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.
Again, we thank the Wilsons for this generous effort and wish them many more happy years on the property.
Newton Conservators President