What is an agricultural conservation easement?
An agricultural conservation easement is a legally recorded, voluntary agreement which restricts the development or improvement of the land for purposes other than agriculture. Easements are purchased in perpetuity only and all easement restrictions are binding upon the current owners and future owners.
How do I apply for an easement?
The first step for landowners interested in preserving their land is to enroll the acreage in an Agricultural Security Area. The landowner must submit a petition to their local municipality to create or add to an ASA.
Next, the landowners must submit a completed application to the Wayne County Agricultural Land Preservation Board. If the application meets the minimum eligibility criteria, it will be ranked against other eligible applications. A farm's rank is based on soil quality, farmland potential and the likelihood of the conversion of the land to non-agricultural uses. The submission of an application does not obligate the landowner, the County of Wayne or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
According to rank, the Wayne County Agricultural Land Preservation Board will then make an offer to purchase a conservation easement on the acreage. An independent appraiser appointed by the County Board determines the easement purchase price per acre. The price offered for the purchase of an easement may not exceed, but may be less than, the appraised per acre easement value.
Can the easement be subdivided?
Wayne County Agricultural Land Preservation regulations may allow for limited subdivision of existing easements under the following circumstances only:
The subdivision of no more than two (2) acres for the construction of one additional residence and only if the construction cannot be accomplished by land development.
Subdivision of an existing easement on a case-by-case basis and at the discretion of the County Board, provided the landowners meet all the criteria in Chapter IX, Section 2 of the Wayne County Agricultural Land Preservation Program Regulations.
What type of construction is allowed?
The construction of new farm buildings and fences for agricultural use is permitted. The construction of one new additional residential structure is permitted if the use is limited to the landowner's principle residence or housing for farm employees.
What type of activities are allowed?
The restricted land shall be used solely for agricultural production and other agricultural uses, such as the production of field crops; fruits and vegetables; horticultural specialties, including nursery stock and ornamental shrubs and flowers; livestock and livestock by-products; timber, wood and other wood products derived from trees; and aquatic plants and animals and their by-products.
Can I lease my land for gas drilling?
Easement deed restrictions allow for the exploration, storage and removal of gas, oil and coal. However, lease agreements used by the gas companies may lack certain language which would protect the easement and the landowner. Without this, landowners may unknowingly violate the restrictions of the easement deed. The County Board has prepared a gas lease addendum to be used in conjunction with the gas lease. Since the landowner will ultimately be responsible for any violations that occur, it is strongly suggested that the addendum be made part of any gas lease agreement. For your protection, legal counsel should be obtained before you sign any gas lease or legal document (This is not legal advice - landowners should seek the advice of an attorney before signing any legal documents).
Do I still own the land?
Landowners retain full ownership and control of their land and can sell or transfer their property. However, because there is an agricultural conservation easement in place, all landowners must abide by the deed restrictions and County regulations.
How does the county know that the easement restrictions are being followed?
Eased land will be inspected annually to determine compliance with the easement restrictions. Easements may be inspected without prior notice if the County Board has reasonable cause to believe that any provision of the easement has been or is being violated. Violations, if not corrected, will be prosecuted in the Court of Common Pleas.