Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Will land trusts become a target for local governments seeking tax dollars?

The Boston Globe is reporting an interesting story on a battle between land trusts and local governments seeking precious tax revenue.  From the story:

A wide range of conservation groups in Massachusetts are worried their finances could take a major hit if a small town in the Berkshires wins a case slated to come before the state’s highest court Monday.

The case could determine whether cities and towns, which are hungry for cash, can tax conservation land owned by groups such as the Nature Conservancy and the Massachusetts Audubon Society. More than 1.25 million acres in Massachusetts have been protected from development.

The dispute revolves around how publicly accessible and active the land needs to be to qualify for a charitable tax exemption. Conservation groups argue that merely preserving the land for public use should be sufficient to exempt it from taxes. But a small town in Western Massachusetts has challenged that paradigm by arguing that the land needs to be broadly available or else face a tax bill.

Read the full article here.  Is this a one-off case or a trend?

Stephen R. Miller

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