Couple grants easement on Huntsdale acreage

Friday, January 23, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:20 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Mid-Missouri Greenbelt Coalition announced this week that it acquired 18 acres of land near Huntsdale last month. The land was donated by a Columbia couple who wanted to limit development on their property.

The donation is a conservation easement between the Greenbelt Coalition and Tom and Marilyn Vernon. The agreement relinquishes development rights of the grassy hills and gullies off of Nebo Cemetery Road in Huntsdale to the coalition. The land includes a one-acre vineyard of Norton grapes.

The Greenbelt Coalition is a nonprofit group that works to protect land for natural purposes. Over the past seven years, it has changed from an environmental advocacy group to a land trust.

The Vernons still own the property, but it can be used for agricultural and natural purposes only, says Greenbelt Coalition President Fred Young.

“It’s private property. They (the Vernons) can sell it, pass it on to their heirs, etc. The key is that the easement restricts the landowners’ right to subdivide and develop,” Young said.

Previously, the land could have been subdivided into three tracts for single-family homes. Under the new agreement, only one single-family house and associated buildings can be built. The agreement also prohibits confined animal farming.

According to Jeff Barrow, the coalition’s vice president, the group offers land owners an alternative to donating land to a city or the state.

“It stays within the private sector,” Barrow said.

Tom Vernon said they approached the coalition with the proposal because it would preserve the rural landscape and provide them with a tax break.

The Vernons will receive an incentive from the IRS because the agreement reduces the real estate value of the land. Tom Vernon said he could theoretically spread out the deduction of $99,000 over several years.

“It will reduce my tax burden, but that’s not the primary reason,” Tom Vernon said. “We think it would benefit the county if they preserve the agricultural land and natural beauty of the county for future generations.”

Tom Vernon, who has owned the land for 10 years, said he wants to promote the monetary and natural benefits of the conservation easement by writing letters to other landowners in the area.

“It would be nice if other people would think seriously about it,” he said. “I would be really disappointed if I was the only one.”

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