Preserving Open Space in the Greater Sandy Spring Area
Greater Sandy Spring Green Space, Inc. (GSSGS) is a land trust formed to help preserve open space in the greater Sandy Spring, Maryland area. As urban sprawl continues to encroach on valuable farmlands, efforts are being throughout the country to preserve the rural character of our communities. The mission of GSSGS is to promote for the benefit of the general public, the preservation, protection and balanced use of open space and natural resources within eastern Montgomery County and the Patuxent River Watershed.
Landowners of qualifying property can protect their land with conservation easements, and in return they may receive income tax, property tax, federal estate tax, and Maryland estate tax benefits. A conservation easement is a perpetual legal agreement that a property owner makes with a Land Trust (and/or a government agency) to restrict the development and uses that may take place on the property. It is tailored to the particular property and to the interests of the individual owner.
The easement concept includes a separation of rights of ownership so that development rights may be sold or voluntarily conveyed to other owners. These rights have value, and if they are donated to a land trust in the form of a conservation easement, there are potential tax benefits, including income tax deductions for the charitable gift, property tax benefits, and estate tax benefits. Also, as an incentive for land conservation, the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 allows heirs to exclude from the taxable estate up to 40% of the value in addition to the reduction due to the decreased assessment.
Landowners are encouraged to consult their financial advisors, and if interested, to contact GSSGS. Our group has formed a partnership with the Maryland Environmental Trust to receive conservation easements, and we will perform the stewardship of the easements with regular property inspections and consultations with the owners.