In an effort to understand what impacts our real estate taxes, we inquired about conservation easements.
“A conservation easement is a voluntary 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.”
We spoke to Dan Donaldson, Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District Director, and asked some questions about this subject.
If an owner of a parcel of land gives up their development rights on their property, they are given a reduction in their property taxes. The taxes are not eliminated, but they can be greatly reduced. There are approximately 600 acres in the Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District with a conservation easement.
Mr. Donaldson did say much of the land with conservation easement are not necessarily prime building locations, such as wetland, ravines, etc. The conservation easements can be issued by the Federal, State and local governments.
Other governmental bodies may also have issued conservation easements, and it is estimated that ~5,000 acres in Lake County are involved. If we add the 9,100 acres in the Metro Parks system, that means 14,100 acres are taken off the tax duplicate. Lake County is comprised of 145,280 acres of land and 481,280 acres of water. If the 14,100 acres is all land, then 9.7% (14,100 / 145,280) of the land available is not providing any real estate taxes.
We will continue to explore other issues, such as “non-profits” that do not pay their fair share of real estate taxes.