Devoted to Preserving Coventry's Open Space
What is a Land Trust?
Land Trusts are local, regional or statewide nonprofit organizations dedicated to the preservation of open space, preservation of vital land resources within their jurisdiction, and land that may be important to the quality of life within the community.
America has close to 1,000 independent Land Trusts that have protected several million acres of land. Trusts own over a million acres and hold conservation easements on thousands of acres of land.
The Coventry Land Trust
The Coventry Town Council in conjunction with the Rhode Island Legislature established the Coventry Land Trust in February of 1999. Many communities have created Land Trusts to preserve and protect open space and the Coventry Land Trust is the town’s vehicle to promote preservation of Coventry’s rural, rustic and historic character that defines the town. Members of the Land Trust are volunteers appointed by the Town Council who share the goal of preserving and protecting the Town’s precious lands for future generations.
- Acquire, preserve and protect Coventry’s open space for future generations
- Conserve and protect environmentally sensitive lands and natural resources
- Educate residents and the general public regarding the need for land and resource conservation
- Recommend to the Town Council those properties which meet the goals and objectives for land preservation
The Land Trust strives to preserve open space, protect wetlands, water bodies, ground and surface water resources, farm lands, historical or cultural places of interest, scenic views, unusual, exceptional or exemplary natural habitats. Land Trust held properties hopefully will provide opportunities for research and education on natural resources. Land Trust properties, unless restricted, are open to the public for passive recreation. The Coventry Comprehensive Plan guides the Land Trust in protecting environmentally sensitive areas, wetlands, aquifer recharge areas, scenic views and farmlands. The Land Trust protects open space via acquisition of development rights, conservation easements, acquiring title, and receiving donations of real property. The Land Trust also partners with private and governmental land protection agencies to achieve mutual goals particularly on large parcels which otherwise might be out of reach for one particular group. The Land Trust in cooperation with the town of Coventry monitors land trust properties to ensure their environmental integrity.
Methods of Land Preservation
Easements are restrictions landowners voluntarily place on their property that legally bind the actions of present and future owners of the property to protect its associated resources. The rights the owner relinquishes and those he or she retains are set forth in a legal document, known as a conservation easement. Each conservation easement must be specifically designed for a particular piece of property and its unique natural characteristics in mind. The specific rights retained by a landowner or restricted by easement vary with each property. Conservation easements can be used to preserve wildlife habitat, open space, agricultural land, or the historic features of a building or site, while allowing the landowners to continue owning and using the property. These easements are recorded with the deed in the town’s land evidence records. Conservation Easements are one of the most powerful and effective land protection tools available to landowners to protect land permanently while keeping it in private ownership, and are among the fastest growing methods for the permanent conservation of private lands in the United States today. These types of easements are designed to conserve forever important resource values of the property or the whole property. It is legally binding and must be monitored and enforced by a qualified conservation organization or governmental agency. The easement is either voluntarily donated or sold by the land owner and constitutes a legally binding agreement that limits certain types of uses or prevents development from taking place on the land in perpetuity while the land remains in private hands.
Conservation easements protect land for future generations while allowing owners to retain many private property rights and to live on and use their land, at the same time potentially providing them with tax benefits.
Current concerns over the rapid and increasing loss of farm land has led to explorations of ways to protect our valuable resources. One of several options being considered is the acquisition or transfer of development rights. Development Rights are rights that a property owner holds to build on their property. Development rights may be sold or transferred. As a tool for preservation, Development Rights are often purchased by a group that has an interest in preventing development. A Land Conservation Trust may purchase the development rights for a farm that is in a desirable location for building.
Land owners are in a unique position to contribute to the Land Trust in numerous ways - by donation or selling development rights, or placing conservation easements on the property. In many cases, property owners may receive substantial tax benefits for such donations.
The Land Trust is presently looking for new properties to preserve in the wake of present and future development by continually exploring the use of conservation easements, development rights, grants, donations or outright purchase of land in an effort to protect Coventry’s natural character, farms, forests and open space.
Did You Know?
The preservation of open space enhances the property values of nearby homes.
Farm, Forest and Open Space Designation
The Farm, Forest and Open Space Act of the Rhode Island Legislature (R.I. Law 44-27) allows private property enrolled in the Farm, Forest and Open Space Program to be assessed at its current use rather than its commercial value. The purpose of the law is not to reduce property taxes but to conserve Rhode Island’s productive agricultural and forest land by encouraging land owners to hold onto their land. In order to quality for this valuable tax incentive program, properties must strictly conform to the guidelines set forth in the Farm, Forest and Open Space Act. Land classifications include farmland, forest land and wetlands, and open space land. As of January 2005 there were four hundred eleven (411) properties designated as Farm, Forest and Open Space in the town of Coventry.
As time passes, the wisdom of the Rhode Island Legislature in creating the Farm, Forest and Open Space Act becomes more and more visible to the citizens of Rhode Island. Obviously, Rhode Island is handicapped by being the smallest state in America with a fairly sizeable population for the small piece of geography we occupy. Local Planning and Zoning Boards are facing huge challenges as they attempt to execute their duties to the State and their respective communities. We must not be against development, rather we should support responsible development that makes best use of property without devastating open space and the environment. This, we believe, is the thrust of the Farm, Forest and Open Space Act.
Coventry is the largest land mass town in Rhode Island (64 square miles.) A great portion of Coventry is undeveloped woodland and farmland held in large portions mostly in the western section of town. Many of these properties have been held by the same families for generations. The Coventry Land Trust recognizes the environmental value of this precious land and is anxious to work with property owners to protect it for future generations.
Properties Acquired Through Efforts of Town and Land Trust
Merrill S. Whipple Property - 906 Main Street: The Whipple was the first parcel of property purchased by the Land Trust in 2000, a seven acre parcel located near Sandy Bottom Road and Washington Street (Route 117). The parcel is contiguous with two other pieces of land, around 49 acres total already owned by the town.
The property was purchased from Hope Tusch borders the 29-acre Whipple property the town purchased three years prior and abuts the 20 acres of Sandy Bottom Road that the town acquired in 2000.
The Whipple property is deciduous material and wetlands and Sandy Bottom Road is wetlands. This property was purchased to maintain as open fields. It makes the entire 56 acres diverse and unique from a biological standpoint is located at 906 Main Street .
Rocco J. Ruggieri - This parcel is the second piece of conservation land the Land Trust accepted. The property was donated to the Town by Mr. Ruggieri in 2001. The property is an 18-acre land locked parcel in western Coventry approximately 1100' west of Lewis Farm Road and 450' south of the Trestle Trail. The property directly abuts the Nicholas Farm Management area, a sprawling preserve that extends to the Connecticut border under the jurisdiction of the RI Department of Environmental Management. A scenic stretch of the Moosup River runs through the parcel and the property is within 400' of the Trestle Trail and the bicycle path and horse trail that links to the Coventry Greenway.
Dennis J. & Mildred Mahoney - The Land Trust acquired property at 1949 Flat River Road in May of 2002 with a grant from the Department of Environmental Management Forest Legacy Program.
Howard D. Mathewson - The Land Trust acquired this property in 2003 - 45 Scott Hollow Road. This is a 44 acre parcel of farm/woodland in western Coventry off of Route 117 near Route 102. This property has a small pond cleared on the side.
Kevin A. Breene Property - January 2006: The Coventry Land Trust recommended that the town of Coventry participate with the Nature Conservancy and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management towards the acquisition, by the RI DEM, of a perpetual conservation easement on approximately 165 acres of property owned by Kevin A. Breene. (Resolution # 1-06-3536 dated January 9, 2006)
Neylon Property - The Land Trust acquired 81 acres of development rights for open space and passive recreation adjacent to Stump Pond. The property was acquired through a matching grant from the RI Department of Environmental Management. The site which was acquired in 2007 has access to the Coventry Greenway.
Phillips Hill Road Property - In 2007, the Town purchased 71 acres of open space adjacent to Stump Pond and the Greenway and in close proximity to the "Neylon Property". The RI Department of Environmental Management will soon be constructing a visitors' center and boat launch which will allow for open space and passive recreation activities.
Rhode Island Department of environmental Management $324,000; Nature Conservancy $107,925; Town of Coventry $105,950.
Under the agreement Breene would retain ownership of the land and be responsible for paying property taxes on it. The conservation easement will prevent development on the land.
Learn More About the Coventry Land Trust
Caroline Wells, Director of Planning and Development