NEFF v. Board of Assessors of Hawley

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, No. 11432, May 15, 2014: Nonprofit’s forest conservation land entitled to property tax exemption.

New England Forestry Foundation, Inc. (NEFF) is a nonprofit corporation, whose purposes include to “create, foster, and support conservation, habitat, water resource, open space preservation, recreational, and other activities” by “promoting, supporting, and practicing forest management policies and techniques [...]

Oehl v. Amana Colonies

Iowa Court of Appeals, Nos. 3-1154/13-0328, March 26, 2014: Certiorari exclusive remedy for project permit approval in historic district.

A permit (COA) is required for certain exterior construction in the historic districts of the unincorporated villages known as Amana Colonies. The permit decision is made by the Amana Colonies Land Use District Board of Trustees (Board). The [...]

Glass v. Van Lokeren

Mich. Court of Appeals,  No. 302385, March 25, 2014: Land trust did not tortuously interfere with owners business relationships.

In this litigation, the Glasses, who were subject to an unsuccessful attempt by the IRS to disallow a federal income tax deduction for a conservation easement the Glasses donated to the Little Traverse Conservancy Trust (LTC) (Glass v [...]

San Antonio Board of Adjustment v. Reilly

Texas Court of Appeals, 4th Dist., No. 04-13-00221-CV, March 19, 2014: No abuse of discretion if board relies on non-expert opinion of neighbors in demolition decision.

Reilly sought a permit from the City historic preservation officer to demolish a house in a historic district in San Antonio. When the permit was denied, Reilly appealed to the Board [...]

Van Liew v. Chelmsford

Mass. Appeals Court, No. 13-P-145, February 28, 2014: No municipal duty to enforce preservation easement; no standing for mandamus declaratory judgment.

Van Liew brought a mandamus action against the Selectmen of Chelmsford, MA, to require them to enforce a preservation easement. (In Massachusetts, Preservation easements and conservation easements are governed by the same statute, M.G.L. chapter 184, [...]

Hanna and Mrowka v. Chicago

Appellate Court of Illinois, First District, No. 06 CH 19422, unpublished, September 26, 2013: Words ‘historic’, ‘significant’, ‘value’ not vague in landmarks ordinance.

The plaintiffs challenged the landmarks ordinance under which the city designated as historic landmarks the neighborhoods in which the plaintiffs own property. They asserted that the ordinance was invalid and unconstitutional because it uses [...]

500, LLC v. Minneapolis

Supreme Court of Minnesota, No. A11-1705, September 25, 2013: Action on certificate of appropriateness to alter historic landmark is “relating to zoning” under Minnesota law.

Under Minnesota law (Minn. Stat. § 15.99, subd. 2(a) (2012)) a city has only 60 days to “approve or deny” an application for a “written request relating to zoning” or the request [...]

Friends of Bethany Place, Inc. v. Topeka

Kansas Supreme Court, No. 100,997, August 23, 2013: Under Kansas Historic Preservation Act governing body decides whether (1) there are no feasible and prudent alternatives to the project and (2) the project program includes all possible planning to minimize harm to the historic property.

“The Topeka City Council granted Grace Episcopal Cathedral and The Episcopal Diocese of [...]

Kelley v. Cambridge Historical Commission

Massachusetts Appeals Court, No. 12-P-1309, Aug. 21, 2013: No standing to enforce perpetual restriction or challenge historical certificate of appropriateness.

Four individuals living in the vicinity of St. James Episcopal parish church (but not abutters), challenged actions by the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC) and the Cambridge Historical Commission (CHC) in connection with a commercial development on church [...]

IN RE BARNES FOUNDATION

PA Superior Court, 2013 PA Super 145, June 19, 2013: Special knowledge not sufficient interest for private citizen to intervene in charitable trust matter.

[Editorial note: Some commentators have made the argument that conservation easements and historic preservation easements are charitable trusts under the laws of various States. This case is reviewed here because it concerns standing [...]

Schottland V. Brown Harris Stevens Brooklyn, LLC

Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York, Second Department, 2013 NY Slip Op 03982, June 5, 2013: A NY property seller’s covenants against prior acts may require disclosure of a conservation easement.

 In or about 2002, the Netzer defendants granted what the court called “a conservation easement” (it was a historic preservation façade [...]

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection v. Huber

Supreme Court of New Jersey,No. A-116 September Term 2010 065540, April 4, 2013: Inspection under wetlands permit on conservation easement constitutionally permitted.

The Hubers’ residence includes land subject to a wetlands permit under New Jersey’s Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act (FWPA; N.J.S.A. 13:9B-1 to -30) and a deed restriction/conservation easement to their Township. After a neighbor complained about [...]

Covered Bridge Farms II, LLC v. Maryland

Md Court of Special Appeals, No. 1920, September Term, 2011, March 22, 2013: Agricultural Preservation Easement granted on separate adjoining lots in one ownership can’t be subdivided.

A predecessor in ownership of appellant Covered Bridge Farm II, LLC (CBF II) sold an agricultural preservation easement to the State of Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF) on three [...]

Wendler v. City of St. Augustine

FL Dist. Court of Appeals, 5th Dist., No. 5D12-2563, March 15, 2013: Compensation for Florida city’s denial of demolition is based on date of denial, not date of ordinance.

Between 1998 and 2006, the Wendlers bought real property located in a National Register of Historic Places District in St. Augustine, Florida. At the time of their purchases, [...]

Mahajan vs. Department of Environmental Protection

Mass. Supreme Judicial Court, SJC-11134, March 15, 2013: Public pavilion on land taken for urban renewal is not covered by Mass. Constitution’s environmental protection provision.

This case concerns the state’s oversight and control of the use of what has been a public space on land owned by the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA).  In 1964 the BRA, in [...]

White v. Hartigan

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, 464 Mass. 400, February 8, 2013: Upland boundary of beach parcel or easement does not move with landward erosion of shoreline.

The Nortons (plaintiffs and appellants) claimed that their fractional interest in a beach on Martha’s Vineyard conveyed rights in a moveable beach parcel that shifts upland with the northerly migration of the [...]

Pecos River Open Spaces, Inc. v. County of San Miguel

Court of Appeals of New Mexico,No. 30,865, January 11, 2013: Open space conservation land owned by conservation nonprofit exempt from property tax.

In a case of first impression, the Appeals Court held that property owned by a conservation organization, subject to a conservation easement prohibiting all construction, for the purpose of open space conservation constitutes a “charitable [...]

Tresch v. County Of Sonoma

California Court of Appeals, 1st District, Division 4, No. A133472, January 4, 2013: California county’s resolution clarifying conservation easement not subject to environmental impact review. (Unpublished)

In connection with a proposed quarry operation on adjacent land, a conservation district adopted a resolution interpreting an existing conservation easement to permit the establishment of a wildlife preserve on agricultural [...]

Wooster v. Dept. of Fish and Game

Cal. Court of Appeal, 3rd Appellate Dist., No. C068816, November 26, 2012: Validates conservation easement hunting ban despite failure to post land.

This decision is marked “Not to Be Published”, meaning it is not generally citable as precedent. See comment below.

Plaintiff/appellant Wooster’s 4,535 acre property is subject to a conservation easement deed and agreement held by the [...]

Norton v. Perry

KY Court of Appeals, Nos. 2009-CA-002343-MR, 2009-CA-002394-MR, October 12, 2012: Nominating process for National Register fundamentally flawed and subject to review in state court.

This appeal turns on state court jurisdiction and process. The appeal arose in response to the process of nominating a property to the National Register of Historic Places, specifically the way the state [...]