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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Conservation Easements 101

I'm considering granting a conservation easement to the exterior of Remaking Le Slum headquarters. I'm new to this and have a lot to learn before pulling any legal triggers, but generally a conservation easement is a property interest which embodies the right to change the exterior appearance of the property it protects. It legally binds the present and future owners of the property with the goal of preserving the historic appearance of a property (and, hopefully, the surrounding neighborhood). It carries with it certain tax advantages making it desirable to the homeowner, though it could adversely affect the value of the property. In theory, when the conservation easement right is held by a responsible community steward, both the property owner and the community can be assured that change, which over time is inevitable, will take into account sound preservation values and the aesthetic concerns of both the property owner and the community.

Without having thought through all of the consequences, my thoughts are that that the house is already subject to significant restrictions regarding exterior changes because of its location in a historic district, so the easement will not likely be that burdensome to the property. The front runner for receiving said easement is the L'Enfant Trust. I was surprised to see in the L'Enfant Trust portfolio of easements they hold that only two have been granted in Shaw (one on 10th Street and one on 12th Street; a few Shaw easements may be recorded under the Greater U Street Historic District portfolio, however). In contrast, they show 100 easements in Georgetown and 119 in Dupont.

Does anyone have any insight into conservation easements as they relate to Shaw?


Ray said...

To restore my house to its historic slum state I would have to put filthy and broken aluminum storm windows back on, repaint the stonework in navy grey and windows bright pink, put green astro turf on the stairs and fill my lawn with liquor bottles and other trash like my next door neighbors. Think the city will give us money for that?

si said...

I worked with the L'Enfant Trust for a few years, I HIGHLY recommend them. There has been a lot of controversy & changes in the law in the past couple of years, they comply with all of it very carefully.

si said...

As far as the disproportionate # of easements in dupont & georgetown: money. To donate an easement there are significant upfront costs roughly around 5k-10k or even more. There are probably way more people to our west who have that much $ to spare.