AN HISTORIC MANSION SITUATED ON 32-ACRES IN A PRESTIGIOUS PENNSYLVANIA SUBURB IS DONATED TO A UNIVERSITY FOR USE AS A CONFERENCE CENTER. BY THE LATE 1990S, THOUGH, THE CONFERENCE CENTER IS NO LONGER PROFITABLE, AND THE UNIVERSITY DECIDES TO SELL THE CENTER. NORMALLY SUCH PROPERTIES ARE SOLD TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER AND TOTALLY DEVELOPED. THE ZONING DOES PERMIT MORE THAN 55 LOTS OF LESS THAN ONE HALF ACRE EACH, HOWEVER, THE NORTH AMERICAN LAND TRUST OFFERS A SOLUTION THAT WOULD RETURN AN ACCEPTABLE SUM OF CASH WHILE PRESERVING THE ECOLOGICAL AND HORTICULTURAL CHARACTER OF THE LANDSCAPE. THE TRUST'S PLAN ALSO INCLUDES A FAÇADE EASEMENT TO PRESERVE THE OUTSTANDING ARCHITECTURAL DETAILS, AND FINANCIAL INCENTIVES THAT ASSIST THE BROKER IN ATTRACTING CONSERVATION BUYERS.
Since the 1920s the Tudor mansion and the grounds surrounding it remain protected and pristine, yet the neighborhood is carved up into smaller and smaller parcels. While they must sell the property to recoup their losses, the University officials would prefer to spare the home and the 32-acre estate from inevitable development. .
THE DISCOVERYAlthough zoning laws permit a maximum of 65 single-family homes to be built on the 32 acres, in contrast, the Trust's conservation easement and limited partnership with homeowners would allow the estate to remain essentially the same.
Three neighbors acquire portions of the estate adjoining their own properties. They are pleased to protect the value of their own dwellings while participating in a conservation project that helps them as well as their surrounding neighbors. The fourth investor purchases the manor house making the historic property his home, and also buys an adjoining site and conveys an additional conservation easement to preventing future development. All remaining structures are restored.
Some key elements of
the final plan include:
1 The project requires no front-end investment by the University;
2 No new construction is necessary as neighbors opt to purchase land adjoining their own property;
3 All ecologically sensitive areas and important wildlife habitat are protected to maintain landscape diversity; and
4 The combination of
well-kept historic buildings, open space and pristine settings secure the integrity of the surrounding
5 The University is able to recoup its investment without neighborhood opposition.