Interpreting Conservation Easements and When New Structures are Allowed

Image of tractor in field by Chesapeake Bay Program

The article is not a substitute for legal advice. 

            The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland recently reversed the Circuit Court for Howard County’s granting of summary judgment involving how to interpret a conservation easement.  At issue in the decision is whether the easement allowed for additional residences to be built on the preserved farmland beyond the existing four residences when the easement was granted.  The easement permitted additional structures supporting continued agricultural use of the land to be built.  The new owners argued that the new house was an “additional structure” and should be allowed.  The decision is in Roxbury View, LLC v. McCauley.

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When is a Farmer Not a Farmer? Tax Court Case Highlights Complexity in Federal Tax Law


Maryland farmland in Talbot County image by Chesapeake Bay Program via

This post is not legal advice

A group of Maryland farmers recently learned an important lesson, sometimes how a federal tax law defines a “farmer” can have large impacts. Brothers donated a conservation easement on a farm, then sold the property. The brothers then claimed the donation on their taxes. The tax court ruled that the brothers did not qualify as “qualified farmers” who could deduct 100 percent of the contribution because their gross incomes from the farm were less than 50 percent of their total gross incomes. The sale of farmland and the sale of the conservation easement did not count as an activity included in the business of farming. The brothers were limited to a 50 percent of the charitable contribution for the conservation easement. Continue reading

Preserved Property Owner Does Not Have Standing to Challenge Approved Use by Neighboring Preserved Property Owner


Photo of Chebeague Island in Maine, source Gkuriger via wikicommons


This post is not legal advice

I have written a few times on how the legal principle of standing can impact your ability to bring a lawsuit. In many cases, standing can require showing an injury-in-fact, causation relationship between the injury and the action of the defendant, and likelihood that the injury can be solved by a favorable decision and is not merely speculative. But in some cases, the legislature may limit who can have standing even further. For example, with conservation easements, a state legislature may limit those who can enforce the conservation easement to the holder of the easement (such as a land trust). The Maine Supreme Court recently found landowner of preserved property did not have standing to enforce the easement on neighboring property (Estate of Robbins, 2017). Continue reading