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Old 05-09-2019, 02:27 AM   #1
KC Clark's Avatar
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: Central Ohio
Default Land owner ignores conservation easement

I was on a zoning board for nine years. We quite often insisted on language that said parts of the property in question were to be protected. We learned the hard way about how developers could just clear cut a property even though the protection language existed. We got better at producing language that the developers could not legally ignore. Unfortunately, that just meant the developers illegally ignored the language, hoping they would not get caught. When they did get caught, the punishment was not enough to deter others from doing the same thing.

Found this story today. Current property owner totally ignored a conservation easement a previous owner put on the property. Amazes me how much destruction the current owners caused. Sadly, this story is being framed by many as government overreach even though the government has zero to do with the case.


The court found that the Thompsons tried concealing their actions, resisted efforts to come up with a restoration plan and further damaged the property when they tried fixing it by planting nonnative vegetation.

“The significance of the outcome in this case cannot be overstated,” said the attorney representing the Sonoma Land Trust, Sarah Sigman. “Conservation easements are legally binding and people who purchase land under easement must understand that protecting these properties is not optional.”


“It was,” said Neale, a 25-year veteran in the open space field, “really the most willful, egregious violation of a conservation easement I’ve ever seen.”

In his blunt 57-page ruling, Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Patrick Broderick sided strongly with the land trust, calling out the Thompsons for “knowing and intentional” violations of a legally binding conservation deal. He said the couple had shown a “persistent failure to tell the truth” as the case unfolded and had “demonstrated an arrogance and complete disregard for the mandatory terms of the easement.”


SLT acquired a conservation easement over the entire Easement Property in 2009 "to preserve the Property's natural habitat, scenic, and open spaces value ... in perpetuity." Underlying Compl. 18. The Easement "expressly prohibits ... constructing any new roads, using any off-road motorized vehicles, excavating or removing any soil, and pruning, cutting, removing, or destroying any tree," subject to certain limitations. Id. 19. The Easement also requires "[d]efendants to request and to obtain [SLT's] written approval for a `vegetation management plan' prior to undertaking any restoration activities, and it expressly prohibits any other uses of the Property that are inconsistent with its stated purposes." Id. "Public records indicate that the Thompsons paid nearly $1 million less for the Property, as encumbered by the Easement, than the previous owners had paid for it prior to granting the Easement to the Trust." Id. 25.

The caterpillar does all the work but the butterfly gets all the publicity.

George Carlin
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