We identify creative ways for landowners to conserve lands with environmental significance, and help them evaluate their options, including:
- Understanding the owner’s estate planning goals — Does the land need to provide income during your lifetime? Who will receive the land at your death?
- Evaluating existing land use rights and development needs — What may be built on the property? Could someone else develop your property after you? Do you need to save housing or other structure sites for your children or for future activities, such as for farming or for educational buildings?
- Determining the conservation values of the property — Is it good agriculture or forestry land? Does the land offer important views of the mountains or ocean? Does the land include threatened or endangered species? How will climate change potentially alter current conservation values?
- Evaluating the tax and financial ramifications of the conservation effort (usually with the assistance of the land owner’s tax and estate advisors, as well as the assistance of an appraiser) – What is the value of the property before and after a conservation easement? Could the owner benefit from a tax deduction? Does the owner need yearly income for living expenses? Are financial reserves needed for estate taxes or other future needs?
We assist landowners through all parts of a conservation easement transaction:
- Budgets for the conservation project;
- Selection of, and liaison to, the necessary consultants (e.g., appraisers, surveyors, engineers, environment assessment consultants, and planning consultants);
- Negotiations with land trusts or other nonprofits;
- Drafting of conservation easement and other transactional documents;
- Assisting with other IRS compliance documentation, including baseline or property documentation, Form 8283 submittals, and donation acknowledgment letters from the nonprofit organization.
We provide legal and organizational assistance to 501(c)(3) exempt organizations — usually those that include conservation, environmental, or water issues as part of their mission — including public charities, private foundations (family foundations, grant making foundations and operating foundations), and supporting organizations.
- Focus on function: We help organizations increase their efficiency by establishing policies and practices that make sense to their organization. We find that if an organization adopts and applies best nonprofit management practices that it can usually easily meet IRS requirements.
- Organizing stage: We help groups assess their mission, goals and strategies, and based on that assessment, help them: organize their nonprofit entity; establish necessary policies and protocols; select the best tax exempt status; and apply for tax exempt status with the IRS.
- Ongoing activities: We provide support with ongoing nonprofit activities relating to IRS compliance or general business needs, including: compensation issues; private benefit and private inurement; unrelated business income tax issues; general excise tax issues; risk management; formation of subsidiaries for specific activities; assistance with Form 990 filings; and, change in charitable activities.
- Family philanthropy: We especially enjoy helping families work on philanthropic endeavors, including helping them: define their goals; work as a team on issues; conduct efficient meetings; conduct grantee due diligence; and, work collaboratively with their grantee organizations or other philanthropic partners. We can also provide back office assistance, including assisting with preparation of agendas, minutes, and grantee correspondence.
Land Use and Planning
We offer creative solutions to landowners seeking to develop their properties responsibly. We bring together the experts needed to obtain the development permits, including hiring and working with the surveyors, engineers, archaeologists, planning consultants, and other experts. We can also work in conjunction with planning consultants to prepare permit applications and present projects to government agencies. As an advocate, we can provide seasoned representation to landowners in disputes with government agencies, such as planning departments, public works departments, county board of variances and appeals, and planning commissions.
We assist clients with a variety of traditional real property legal matters, such as due diligence review before purchase, and negotiating and drafting property-related documents, including options, leases, purchase-sale agreements, access and utility easements, and deeds.