Farm, woods in land trust Properties are first to be protected under accord with agency

'Our springs disappearing'

Owners get tax break in conservation easement agreement

January 04, 1996|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

A farm owned by a Carroll County family since the 1750s and a wooded 58-acre parcel along a trout-filled stream have become the first two properties to be protected under easement agreements with the Carroll County Land Trust.

Kathleen M. Raver said she placed the 119-acre Good Contrivance Farm into a conservation easement only after long talks with her two sons and two daughters. The land straddles the Carroll and Baltimore county line on Emory Road -- Route 91 -- near Finksburg.

The family has lived on the land for five generations and Mrs. Raver said her sons and daughters have been interested in conservation and better planning for growth as the family watched subdivisions go up around the farm.

"We have seen things like our springs disappearing when 126 wells were placed across the road," she said.

Meanwhile, Robert H. and Louisa Stevenson believe that "private islands" such as the one they are creating with woods, pasture and streams will be more important in the future than the development rights they gave up for their property on Carrollton Road near Finksburg.

In a conservation easement, the owner gives up the right to develop the property forever, receiving an income tax deduction for the appraised value of the easement. In addition, the owner pays no property tax for 15 years on the undeveloped part of the property. Houses and buildings remain taxable.

Both families say they haven't determined how much the easement agreements might bring in tax savings. "It matters, but it's not something we'd want to calculate," Mrs. Stevenson said.

Other Carroll landowners have donated conservation easements on more than 500 acres to the Maryland Environmental Trust. But Mrs. Raver and Mr. and Mrs. Stevenson are the first to sign joint easements with the state and the 3-year-old county land trust.

Donors gain no specific advantage by placing their properties with both the state and county agencies, but a joint easement is helpful, said David P. Miller, easement representative for the Carroll trust.

Members of a local trust are more likely to be aware of any activities on the land that violate the easement, Mr. Miller said. "You're not worried about the present owners, because they're putting it in the trust. But a future owner might not understand [the easement] and might want to do something else," he said.

Mr. and Mrs. Stevenson and their son Robert, 11, say they try to live in harmony with the land they have owned for seven years. They maintain plant cover along a small stream and along the East Branch of the Patapsco River, where brown trout thrive. They have fenced the streams so their livestock don't pollute the water.

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