Caplan vs. Town Of Acton

Mass. Supreme Judicial Court, SJC-12274, March 9, 2018: Preliminary injunction warranted against grant to preserve active church’s stained glass.

In a case of first impression, this decision determined that the grant of public funds to renovate historic features of an active house of worship pursuant to a locally administered Massachusetts preservation funding statute is not categorically barred [...]

Save America’s Clocks v. New York

App Div of the NY Supreme Court, 1st Department, 101109/15, 3422, November 30, 2017: NYC interior landmark designation allows Landmarks Preservation Comm. to reject interior alterations and require public access.

The court held that the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) has the power under the City’s Landmarks Preservation and Historic Districts Law (Administrative Code of [...]

Woolford v. Virginia Department of Taxation

Supreme Court of Virginia, Record No. 161095, November 22, 2017: Appraiser qualified due to experience with similar properties, even if experience is weak.

At issue was whether the appraiser of a Virginia conservation easement donation was a “qualified appraiser” under relevant Virginia and federal law.

The Woolfords donated a conservation easement to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. The easement [...]

Palmolive Building Investors v. Commissioner

U.S. Tax Court, 149 T.C. No. 18, October 10, 2017: Outside 1st Circuit, full subordination of mortgagee’s right to insurance proceeds is required to qualify for charitable deduction.

Contrary to the ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit in Kaufman v. Shulman, 687 F.3d 21 (2012) (Kaufman III), the Tax Court holds in [...]

Smith v. Westfield

Mass. Supreme Judicial Court, SJC-12243, October 2, 2017: Recorded restriction not needed for MA park’s constitutional protection.

Massachusetts highest court (SJC) held that state Constitution Article 97 protects land as a public park where there is a clear and unequivocal intent to dedicate the land permanently as a public park and where the public accepts such use [...]

Reri Holdings I, LLC v. Commissioner

U.S. Tax Court, 149 T.C. 1, July 3, 2017: Donor’s basis in donated property must be stated on Form 8283.

This decision does not involve a charitable donation of a conservation easement or historic preservation easement but does involve the same substantiation rules applicable to such donations.

Section 1.170A-13 of the Treasury Regulations includes substantiation requirements that apply [...]

Ten Twenty Six Investors V. Commissioner

US Tax Court, 2017 TC Memo 115, June 15, 2017: Date of recording conservation easement determines year of eligibility for tax deduction.

The Tax Court agreed with the IRS that a conservation easement donated in 2004 but not recorded until 2006 did not create a qualified conservation contribution in 2004 and therefore did not entitle the donor [...]

Faisal v. Historic Boston Inc.

Mass. Appeals Court, No. 16-P-814, June 13, 2017: Signature by one authorized corporate officer sufficient for restriction grant.

A church granted a historic preservation easement (called a “preservation restriction” in Massachusetts) and then sold the church property. The easement was signed for the church only by its president, who had been authorized to do so by a [...]

Save Our Heritage Organisation v. City of San Diego

CA Court of Appeals, 4th District, Div. 1, No. D070006, April 27, 2017: No attorney fee award against unsuccessful public interest litigant.

This decision is about whether a public interest advocacy organization should be responsible under California law for the attorney fees of a developer after the advocacy group lost its legal fight against the developer’s project. [...]

15 West 17th Street LLC v. Commissioner

U.S. Tax Court, T.C. Memo. 2016-233, December 22, 2016: Preservation easement donee’s 990 cannot substitute for contemporaneous written acknowledgment letter.

The Internal Revenue Code requires that to qualify for a federal income tax deduction for contribution of a historic preservation easement or conservation easement valued at $250 or more, the taxpayer must substantiate the contribution by (among [...]

Partita Partners LLC v. United States

U.S. District Court, S.D. New York, 15-cv-2561 (PKC), Oct. 25, 2016: Façade easement protection of entire exterior must be absolute.

At issue was whether a historic preservation easement on a building in a historic district could qualify for a federal charitable tax deduction even if the easement holder could grant an exception to the prohibition against alteration [...]

Smith vs. Westfield

Massachusetts Appeals Court, 90 Mass. App. Ct. 80, August 25, 2016: Concurring opinion calls for change of test whether government designation gives land Mass. constitutional protection.

At issue here was the whether the City of Westfield had taken steps sufficient to make a playground subject to the protections of Massachusetts’ Constitution Article 97, which protects various conservation [...]

Lake Oswego Preservation Society v. City of Lake Oswego

Supreme Court of Oregon, 360 Or. 115, August 4, 2016: New owner can’t remove historic designation imposed during previous ownership under OR law.

The property in question, the Carman House, was built circa 1856. In 1992, when the property was owned by Richard Wilmot, the City of Lake Oswego placed a historic designation on the Carman House. [...]

Telzrow v. US

U.S. Court of Federal Claims, No. 15-1359C, May 26, 2016: Trial may proceed on US liability for failure to remove mechanic’s lien.

This decision is about procedural matters but is reported here as an illustration of a problem that may not be addressed by the provisions commonly found in most historic preservation and conservation easements: mechanics liens.

The [...]

In Re: Nealon

U.S. Bankruptcy Appellate Panel, 1st Circuit, BAP NO. MW 15-035, Bankruptcy Case No. 14-40719-HJB, January 20, 2016: Homestead protection in Massachusetts depends on actual use of property when homestead arises, not owner’s intentions or the property’s subdivision.

This case is about whether the Massachusetts Homestead Act provides protection in bankruptcy for a debtor’s land adjacent to, but [...]


U.S. Dist. Court, SD New York, No. 11 Civ. 8157 (ER), February 1, 2016: Preservation easement recording date is contribution date in New York.

Mecox Partners LP (“Mecox”) donated a historic preservation easement and open space easement on property in New York State to a charitable organization. The deed of easement was fully executed in 2004, but [...]

Gemperle v. Commissioner

U.S. Tax Court, T.C. Memo. 2016-1, January 4, 2016: No preservation easement tax deduction unless appraisal filed with tax return.

Gemperle, the taxpayer (petitioner), claimed a federal income tax deduction for 2007 and 2008 for the contribution of a historic preservation easement on the façade of a Chicago home. Contrary to the requirements of the Internal Revenue [...]

La Mirada v. Los Angeles

Court of Appeals of California, Second District, Division Eight, No. B259672, September 9, 2015: Building and occupancy permits void after demolition in excess of permit.

In this mandamus action, demolition, building and occupancy permits issued by the City of Los Angeles were declared void because the entire structure was demolished, contrary to previously issued permits which required [...]

Kaufman v. Commissioner (Kaufman V)

Court of Appeals, 1st Circuit, No. 14-1863, April 24, 2015: Penalty upheld for gross valuation misstatement.

The Kaufmans’ claim of a federal income tax deduction for donating a historic preservation easement (“preservation restriction” in Massachusetts) was denied after multiple court proceedings culminating in the Tax Court finding that the value of the easement was zero and that [...]

Chabad Lubavitch of Litchfield County, Inc. V. Litchfield Historic District Commission

US Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit, Nos. 12-1057-cv (Lead), 12-1495-cv (Con), September 19, 2014: Certificate of historical appropriateness subject to RLUIPA; current property interest not needed to bring RLUIPA claim; multiple factors must go into discriminatory intent inquiry.

RLUIPA is the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc et seq. Litchfield’s Historic [...]