This is in response to Edgar Allen Beem’s defense of the building of dorms and dining halls on the Riverbend Farm in Saco under a recorded conservation easement (“The Universal Notebook: Preservation isn’t the same as conservation”). As someone who has donated several land conservation easements in perpetuity to preserve rural, agricultural, scenic and natural habitats that benefit the public and the town I live in, I would be very upset if the clear wording of the signed and recorded easement were later not honored and someone built several huge 9,000-square-foot structures on a scenic historic easement.
The recipient land trust also has legal obligations to monitor and honor the easement terms. Breaking an easement can result in increases in the land values supposedly given up by the donor, and related tax consequences for the donors. Adding new uses of the land makes it more valuable versus what was donated and written off. It can also deter others in the future from preserving farm land aiming to prevent any development no matter how noble or profitable.
The devil is always in the details, and unless you parse the words of the actual easement, one shouldn’t assume broad, noble goals are sufficient, better or “close enough” to break such terms.