What's the difference between the Tiverton Open Space Commission and the Tiverton Land Trust?
Tiverton Open Space Commission (TOSC) represents a public entity using public funds to purchase and manage open space. All TOSC expenditures are approved by the town and commission members are appointed by the Town Council. The Tiverton Land Trust (TLT) is a private non-profit corporation with expenditures approved by the TLT Board of Directors. TOSC grant-matching funds come from a share of the conveyance tax levied on sales of real estate in town valued above a certain level. TLT funds come solely from private contributions.
TLT has more flexibility. Being a small, private entity the TLT can negotiate purchases more discreetly, without open meetings requirements or the need for approval by a public authority. This allows TLT to conduct business quietly and act quickly. Public access is not, strictly speaking, a legal restraint for TOSC, however, public access is desirable when public funds are used. TLT is not constrained by public access requirements.
Doesn't Open Space increase taxes?
Open space helps control the town's population density, thereby holding down public expenditures for schools and services, and consequently lowering the public tax burden. According to extensive studies done by the American Farmland Trust, undeveloped land costs taxpayers less than one-third of what it takes to provide services for residential developments, as indicated below:
|Land Use:||Average Expenditures per $1.00 Tax Revenue|
Source: The Cost of Community Services: Making the Case for Conservation American Farmland Trust, 2002 Answer reproduced from the Tiverton Comprehensive Community Plan, 2006 Draft
What's an easement?
A conservation easement (or conservation restriction) is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. It allows you to continue to own and use your land and to sell it or pass it on to heirs.
When you donate [or sell] a conservation easement to a land trust, you give up some of the rights associated with the land. For example, you might give up the right to build additional structures, while retaining the right to grow crops. Future owners also will be bound by the easement's terms. The land trust is responsible for making sure the easement's terms are followed.
Conservation easements offer great flexibility. An easement on property containing rare wildlife habitat might prohibit any development, for example, while one on a farm might allow continued farming and the building of additional agricultural structures. An easement may apply to just a portion of the property, and need not require public access.
Answer care of the Land Trust Alliance - www.lta.org
What about water – what effect does Open Space have on water quality?
Open space has direct benefits to the town's population by protecting ground water recharge areas. This purifies the ground water and maintains sufficient levels to provide drinking water for approximately 40% of the town area and eliminating the need for additional publicly funded water systems. This process also reduces surface water runoff, which is very important for natural flood control.
Answer reproduced from the Tiverton Comprehensive Community Plan, 2006 Draft.
What part of town is the Land Trust interested in?
The TLT is interested in all areas of Tiverton with priority given to augmenting existing major open space areas. The high natural habitat value of the large tracts of undisturbed forest and open farmland south of Bulgarmarsh Rd. make it very attractive to the TLT's funding partners. Given funding opportunities and the availability (and importance) of large, contiguous parcels that preserve habitat for wildlife, promote biodiversity, protect water quality, and conserve Tiverton's rural character and historic agricultural connections, we are particularly interested in the southern part of Tiverton.
Why is the Land Trust interested in small farms?
Some believe that small-scale farming is a dying industry. Recent trends suggest, however, that there are not enough small, specialty farms to supply demand. Agriculture is a defining characteristic of Tiverton. Small farms are attractive to developers because the land has been cleared. But, selling to developers is not the only option available to owners. Easements are one way that the TLT can protect the town's agricultural heritage and promote economic development at the same time. Selling or donating easements allows the small farm owner to realize potential tax benefits, retain ownership, and provide funds to re-align their land use to take advantage of market demands. Successful small farming businesses, protected open space – everyone wins!
Why is this forest so special?
The forest between East Rd and Bulgarmarsh Rd is part of the largest un-fragmented forest in the East Bay. A portion of the forest falls within the Weetamoo Woods Natural Heritage Site designated by the RI Department of Environmental Management because it is an excellent example of an Oak-Holly Forest Community characterized by an oak-dominated forest with a sub-canopy of American holly. In addition to black and scarlet oak, red maple is also present. This community type is restricted to only four states (RI, MA, NY and NJ) and is the only one in Rhode Island. The Nature Conservancy and ABI/NatureServe consider this community type “globally uncommon to rare”. The forest includes Eight Rod Way – a Colonial-era road now, for the most part, an overgrown path. Cellar holes, wells and other archaeological resources along Eight Rod Way add to the forest's significance.
In 2003, the Tiverton Land Trust was host to the Rhode Island Natural History Survey's ‘BioBlitz 2003'. Dozens of scientists and 150 volunteers examined the forest and recorded 851 taxa including 307 mosses and vascular plants, 33 fungi and lichens, 18 mammals, 100 birds and 10 reptiles and amphibians. The forest is also the confirmed habitat of five state-listed endangered or threatened species (Acadian Flycatcher, Eastern Ribbon Snake, Henry's Elfin Butterfly, Worm-eating Warbler and Squawroot).
Would the Land Trust buy a small lot?
Small is relative. In general, the TLT looks for parcels of land that are 10 acres or larger. The location, however, is critical. For example, if a small parcel is adjacent to a larger protected area, or if the acquisition of a critical mass of several small parcels is possible, the TLT might be interested. If in doubt, give a call.