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Upper Makefield tags Heritage Conservancy for monitoring


Upper Makefield is taking steps to ensure land that taxpayers have paid to protect against development is remaining properly conserved.

On Feb. 21, the township’s board of supervisors enlisted Heritage Conservancy, the Doylestown-based nonprofit that specializes in open space preservation, to monitor properties in Upper Makefield upon which conservation easements have been placed.

The monitoring is intended to ensure that the approximately 40 properties in Upper Makefield with conservation easements are abiding by the terms of the easements.

Conservation easements are voluntary agreements between a landowner and a preservation organization or government in which the owner allows development restrictions to be placed on their land. Usually, the landowner receives monetary compensation, though some property owners donate acreage into easements.

For the easements to be truly effective, it’s important that they be monitored to ensure that landowners are faithfully adhering to the terms, officials said.

“Upper Makefield’s residents have invested $30 million-plus in purchasing these easements to guarantee no development,” said Township Manager David Nyman. “The easements have restrictions regarding what can be constructed or take place. The township needs to be assured that those restrictions are being adhered to.”

The plan, officials said, is for Heritage Conservancy to conduct easement monitoring between October 2019 and the end of December 2021. Total cost for the service is not to exceed $24,000.

The monitoring will include representatives from Heritage Conservancy physically visiting conserved properties to observe and photograph existing conditions, particularly noting any changes that may have occurred. The nonprofit says it tries to coordinate visits with landowners/property managers so that they can be present. Even so, Heritage Conservancy said it’s not necessary for landowners to be present during visits.

The nonprofit’s work will also entail compiling written monitoring reports that include photographs, maps and field notes.

If violations are discovered, it’s incumbent on the township to communicate that to landowners and undertake enforcement.

“Routine monitoring of conservation easements is necessary to ensure that the terms and conditions of the easement are upheld,” Heritage Conservancy said. “Monitoring visits also provide an opportunity for the township to stay up-to-date with the continued protection of the conservation values of the easement as well as its public investment.”

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