Staff guidelines for evaluating potential easements

Last modified: July 31, 2017
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VOF staff assess a wide variety of conservation values when evaluating a property’s potential for protection using an open-space easement. These values can include:

Criteria for determining property characteristics:

NATURAL (meets one of the following):

A. The property is in a relatively natural state defined by areas:

  • With little or no land disturbance or clearing of vegetation;
  • Providing habitat for rare, threatened, or endangered species;
  • Of high biological diversity as determined by a qualified professional;
  • Within a designated wilderness area;
  • Having unique geological features.

 

B. The property includes lands designated by a federal, state, or local government, or recognized organization as:

  • Wetlands;
  • Wildlife habitat;
  • Riparian corridors, public water supply watersheds, Chesapeake Bay Resource Protection Areas, Resource Management Areas, flood plain protection areas, or other lands important to water quality or quantity;
  • Steep or critical slopes; or
  • Prime or other important agricultural or forestal soils.

 

SCENIC (meets one of the following):

A. The property is listed in a state, or regional, or local landscape inventory (including site-specific listing in the local Comprehensive Plan).

B. The property is part of the scenic rural landscape or scenic panorama seen from a public area such as from a park, nature preserve, road, recreational water body, trail, or historic structure or land area, is open to or used by the general public, and possesses scenic characteristics. For visual accessibility from a public road to provide significant public benefit, it should be a well-travelled road and/or pass through an area of high aesthetic value, by virtue of the scenic qualities of the natural and manmade features of the landscape. Federal tax law suggests examples of factors used in defining a particular view as “scenic” include: 1) the compatibility of the land use with other land in the vicinity; 2) the degree of contrast and variety provided by the visual scene; 3) the openness of the land; and 4) the harmonious variety of shapes and textures.

HISTORIC (meets one of the following):

A. The property is a historically important land area, such as:

  • An independently significant land area (for example an archaeological site or a battlefield) that is listed on or meets the criteria for listing on the State and/or National Register;
  • A land area listed on the State and/or National Register or within a Rural Historic District;
  • A land area identified by the City or County Comprehensive Plan as having local historic significance; or
  • A land area identified and documented by a recognized organization as having local historical significance.

 

B. The property includes a historic structure and/or resides in a historic setting. Examples include:

  • Any building, structure, or land area that is listed on or meets the criteria for listing on the State and/or National Register;
  • A supporting structure located within a registered Historic District;
  • A structure identified by the City or County Comprehensive Plan as having historical significance; or
  • A structure identified and documented as having local historic significance (including an example of an architectural style, an association with a historical event, or an association with a historical figure).

 

Note: In the case of a property that has a State and/or National Register site on it, VOF recommends that the landowner consider donating a historic preservation easement to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

SCIENTIFIC:

The property includes a site used for scientific research or is determined to be appropriate for the systemic (systematic) and objective collection of data under the direction of a qualified individual in the field of natural science. Examples include a grove of trees resistant to a wide-spread virus, or a unique karst cave system.

OPEN-SPACE:

The preservation of the property is pursuant to a clearly delineated governmental policy or provides scenic enjoyment to the general public as described above. Examples of governmental policy include farmland and forests within an Agricultural and Forestal District, or forestland within a Mountainside Overlay or Conservation District, land within a Rural Historic District or other designation indicative of State conservation policy. Please refer also to Open Space Guidelines in III A. above.

RECREATIONAL:

The property is regularly accessible for use and enjoyment by the general public and contains resources of educational value or offers recreational opportunities, such as a water area used by the public for boating or fishing, or a nature or hiking trail open to the public.

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