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John Nephew

Maplewood City Council Policy & Politics


Easements Workshop

This past Monday, April 9, I attended the city's workshop with a representative of the Minnesota Land Trust about conservation easements. Motivating the workshop was the idea of establishing easements on city-owned open space and parks. (I've seen Mayor Longrie promote this idea in various meetings in recent months, but the council has never formally discussed or voted on it.) My notes from the meeting are available on Maplewood Voices, and I've also added them to this site's archive.

I appreciated the chance to learn more about conservation easements, which seem to be a useful tool for landowners and communities. In brief, a conservation easement splits off certain rights associated with a piece of land — namely, development rights. The specific easement varies from case to case, depending on the nature of the land and the purpose of the easement. In one instance the land affected might have to be left exactly as it is, while in another the easement may allow for trails or limited structures to be built or maintained. Perhaps a parcel of land has a scenic section of lake shore, and the easement may keep any development a certain distance away to preserve that valued asset; or an easement could allow farmland to continue to be farmed, while preventing future development into a housing subdivision.

The easement defines those specific rights, which are then given to a third party, such as the Minnesota Land Trust. The Trust commits to monitoring and enforcing (in court, if necessary) the rights that it now owns through the easement. While the land itself can still be sold, the property rights defined by the easement would remain the property of the trust, limiting what a future landowner could do.


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