VOF provides an array of services to landowners free of charge, such as interpreting existing easements, reviewing and approving plans for activities on easement properties, and responding to questions and inquiries from easement landowners and prospective buyers.
The following are services for which a fee is charged in order to defray the costs incurred by VOF. The Open-Space Lands Preservation Trust Fund (PTF) is available to income-eligible landowners to help with some of the costs associated with conveying or improving an easement. If you have questions about these services, fees, or PTF, contact your local VOF office.
Easement Acquisition Fees and Services
Processing Fee for New Easements: $1,500. This fee covers VOF’s due diligence review and analysis work and will be charged prior to the Board of Trustee’s review of each easement proposal. Easement proposals already in progress prior to adoption of this fee on September 29th, 2016 will be exempt.
Baseline Documentation Report (BDR):
- VOF-Prepared BDR: $3,000 standard or $3,500 for a property with more complex documentation needs such as many existing buildings or natural features to be documented.
- 3rd Party-Prepared BDR: $1,500 Review fee to VOF.
Treasury Regulation §1.170A-14(g)(5)(i)) requires that the donor of a conservation easement provide documentation sufficient to establish the condition of the property going under easement at the time of the gift. To satisfy this requirement a baseline documentation report (BDR) setting forth the characteristics and condition of the donor’s property must be prepared prior to recordation. The characteristics and condition of the property set forth in the BDR become the basis of comparison for future monitoring of the easement.
Preparing a BDR entails one or more visits to a property to document the existing features and values of the property such as buildings, roads, boundaries, water features, etc., with photos, maps, and verbal descriptions. Areas where future activities are permitted or prohibited must also be carefully shown. Most importantly, the BDR sets forth the conservation values that are defined and protected by the specific provisions in the deed of easement.
After Board approval of an easement proposal, the donor will be asked to decide whether to have VOF staff or a third party prepare the required BDR. If VOF prepares the BDR, a fee of $3,000-$3,500 will be charged at the time the report is completed; alternatively, if a third party prepares the report, VOF will charge a review fee of $1,500 at the time the report is submitted to VOF for review.
If VOF prepares the BDR, the amount of the fee will be determined by the features on the property. Many properties will be charged a base fee of $3,000, but a property with a complex existing built environment, such as a large number of buildings or natural features which require time-consuming documentation, such as a large number of karst features, will be charged a $3,500 fee. If the BDR is prepared by a third party, it must meet technical and quality standards developed by VOF. There are detailed data specifications and other requirements for the BDR available to the third party preparing the BDR from the Easement Project Managers. The landowner will pay the third party directly, and VOF will charge a fee of $1,500 to review the report and confirm that it meets all requirements. Whether VOF or a third party prepares the report, it must be reviewed and approved by the donor before an easement is recorded
Reconsideration of Proposal by the Board after one-year lapse: $1,000 fee. This fee applies when an easement project is approved by the Board of Trustees but is not recorded within one year of approval.
Assignment of Easement: VOF shall consider proposed assignments of conservation or open-space easements not co-held by VOF on a case-by-case basis. If VOF in its sole and absolute discretion accepts such an assignment, VOF shall charge the assignor such fee as VOF deems to be sufficient to properly administer the assigned easement.
Fee for certain complex Acquisitions: $20,000. For example:
- Easements involving grant funding from sources other than the Commonwealth of Virginia.
- Easements requiring third-party enforcement rights.
- Easements requiring co-holders.
- Easements requiring unique or special monitoring requirements.
- Acceptance of an easement associated with a state or federal program such as the Wetlands Mitigation Banking program.
The base fee of $20,000 includes the Baseline Documentation Report (BDR) fee applied to donated easements. The fee may be decreased based on the extent that a project utilizes Commonwealth of Virginia funding sources such as the Open-Space Lands Preservation Trust Fund or the Virginia Land Conservation Fund (VLCF)or to the extent that a particular grant program limits this type of fee or other factors at the discretion of the Executive Director. The fee is due at the time of closing.
Stewardship Fees and Services
Easement Amendments: $1,500 fee with application. An additional fee for staff hours may be charged if work exceeds 40 hours. This fee applies to amendments that are initiated as a result of an easement violation or compliance issue or that are initiated by a landowner to clarify ambiguities or improve conditions for the landowner. Amendments can’t impart impermissible private benefit or inurement. VOF may in its discretion reduce this fee for amendments that dramatically improve the conservation values of an existing easement, for example, by adding significant new acres, reducing division and/or dwelling rights. In order to qualify for this reduced fee such amendments must substantially improve the conservation values and protections thereof.
If a BDR is necessary to document the amendment, the BDR fee will apply. For amendments only, the BDR fee may be reduced to $1,500 when all of the following factors are present:
- The size of additional land is less than 50 acres;
- No or minimal improvements to document;
- Recent or good survey and solid property description
- Property is easy to access;
- The original easement property is well documented and there is no need to improve or redo the original BDR.
Boundary Line Adjustments: $1,500 fee with application; BDR fee does not apply. An additional fee for staff hours may be charged if work exceeds 40 hours. This fee applies to boundary adjustments between properties subject to two VOF easements, a boundary adjustment between a property subject to a VOF easement and an adjacent property subject to an easement held by another governmental entity, and any other kind of BLA that VOF is requested to review. The fee covers the review of documents and plats, as well as the deed of conveyance.
Easement Impact Services
Access or Utility Easements: $1,500 fee with application. An additional fee for staff hours may be charged if work exceeds 40 hours. This fee shall apply to requests for administrative or legal work related to access or utility easements through the open space easement. This does not include utility or access easements that serve permitted buildings or activities on the property.
Ecosystem Service Request for review: $1,500 fee with application. An additional fee for staff time may be charged if work exceeds 40 hours. This fee applies to requests for review and evaluation of ecosystem function projects for commercial purposes on easement properties including, but not limited to, projects involving stream bank restoration, wetland and stream mitigation, biological carbon sequestration, or biodiversity mitigation.
Oil and Gas drilling plan review: $10,000 fee with application. An additional fee for staff time may be charged if work exceeds initial fee.
Request for conversion or diversion of Open Space (Virginia Code Section 10.1-1704): $10,000 fee with application for applicants other than public agencies. An additional fee for staff time may be charged if work exceeds initial fee. A Conversion or diversion of Open Space requires replacement or substitute land; in addition, a Stewardship Fund will be required to support VOF with the operation and management of the substitute property. The amount of the Stewardship Fund will be negotiated based on the property size and characteristics.
Present Condition Report in conjunction with property sale: $3,000 fee with application.
Request for Formal Acknowledgment of Easement Transfer: $500 fee with request. This fee applies when the owner of an easement property requests formal written acknowledgement from VOF of the transfer or sale of his or her property; the acknowledgment may be an official letter, affidavit or similar form.