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Letter to Land Owners

West End Regional Open Space Plan

The Ross Township Board of Supervisors adopted the West End Regional Open Space Plan! This plan lays the framework for a series of initiatives that will help Ross Township retain its rural character while accommodating growth.
Ross Township would not have all of its wonderful natural resources if it was not for the careful stewardship of landowners like yourself. Generations of landowners have helped maintain Ross’ rural character.

The Township is actively working to develop voluntary opportunities for landowners like yourself to participate in conservation programs. Many of these programs offer financial incentives that might interest you.

Enclosed are some facts for your review. This describes the variety of conservation options that are available.

We hope you will consider these programs as you think about the future of your land. We would be happy to answer any questions you may have or have someone meet with you to discuss these options in more detail.

If you would like more information, please call us. With your help, we can preserve Ross Township’s rural heritage.

If you want to review the full Regional Open Space Plan, please stop by the Township Office.

To download a copy of the letter, click here…

 A GUIDE FOR ROSS TOWNSHIP LANDOWNERS:

FINANCIAL INCENTIVES FOR LAND CONSERVATION

Ross Township recently adopted its Open Space Plan which was developed in conjunction with Polk, Eldred and Chestnuthill Townships. With the plan complete, Ross Township is eligible for County Open Space funds to help conserve important open spaces. This fact sheet briefly explains some of the options available to interested landowners. For more information, see the contacts listed at the end of this fact sheet.

CONSERVATION OPTIONS

There are a number of voluntary options available to landowners. These include the following

Financial incentives to conserve land you intend to retain

*      Act 319—Clean and Green

*      Conservation easements

Options for landowners who need to transfer title

*  Selling or donating your property to the Township

*  Conservation easement and subsequent sale

*  Open Space Subdivision

The next few paragraphs provide a brief introduction to each of these options

 ROSS TOWNSHIP-PRESERVING OUR RURAL HERITAGE

Act 319—”Clean & Green” is a preferential assessment program in which landowners become eligible for reduced property taxes in exchange for agreeing to keep their land in farming or forest. Landowners may withdraw from the program by paying the accumulated tax savings for the length of time they are in the program (or seven years, whichever is less), plus an interest penalty. Thousands of acres in Ross Township are enrolled in Act 319, helping to maintain our unique character. However, future conservation of these lands is not certain and additional options are available for interested landowners.

Conservation Easements—are voluntary, legally binding agreements between a landowner and a land trust or government agency. The agreements allow property owners to limit or prohibit development on their land. Conservation easements are permanent and run with the title so that all future owners of the land are bound by the original agreement. The land remains in private ownership, and public access is usually not provided.

The Township has limited finding to purchase land and/or conservation easements. A set of criteria will be developed to help guide which properties are the highest priority for this finding. The value of the conservation easement is determined by an appraisal which documents the current fair market value of the property and the value of the property after the conservation easement is placed on the land. The difference between the current value and the “restricted” value is the value of the conservation easement.

Landowners who donate easement to the Township can deduct the value of the easement from their income taxes and carry the deduction against up to 30% of theft adjusted gross income for a period of up to 6 (six) tax years (or until the entire deduction is used).

Similarly, if a landowner sells an easement to the Township for less than its fair market value, that difference may qualify as a charitable contribution which can result in savings in federal income and/or capital gains taxes. In addition, the township may be able to use the partial donation as a match for grant finds to protect other properties.

Selling your property to the Township—as discussed under conservation easements, Ross Township has some limited funding with which to acquire key tracts for open space conservation. A set of criteria will be developed to guide how those finds will be allocated.

As with conservation easements, landowners who donate land to the Township can deduct the value of the land from their income taxes and carry that deduction for up to six (6) tax years. Similarly, if a landowner sells land to the Township for less than its fair market value, that difference may qualify as a charitable contribution which can result in savings in federal income and/or capital gains taxes. Strikingly, in some cases a landowner can actually net more after taxes by selling land to the Township for less than its fair market value.

And any donations or bargain sales may be able to be used by the Township as matching funds for a grant with which to purchase additional properties or easements.

Conservation Easement and Subsequent Sale—another alternative is for landowners to place conservation easement on some or all of their property (through donation, bargain sale, or fair market value sale) and then sell the property on the real estate market with the conservation provisions in place. This option helps landowners who need to sell their property, but want to be sure its natural resources are protected.

Who’s Involved—Ross Township’s Open Space Committee developed this fact sheet to give local landowners a brief overview of some of the options that are available to them. All of these options are available by working with the Township. in addition, the Township has developed relationships with private conservation organizations, including the Pocono Heritage Land Trust, and other governmental bodies, including the Monroe County Open Space Advisory Board. By working together, with local residents and other organizations, and agencies, we hope to preserve our rural heritage.

For more information on these or other options, contact:

Howard Beers, Ross Township Supervisor(570) 992-4572

Tina Drake, Ross Township Supervisor(570) 992-6110

Pat Dougherty, Pocono Heritage Land Trust President (570) 595-6001

Monroe County Open Space Coordinator (570) 517-3153

Ross Township-Preserving our Rural Heritage

When considering these programs, it is important to consult with your own attorney and/or accountant.