The Michigan Historic Preservation Network collaborates with Michigan residents on the protection and preservation of this state’s outstanding stock of historic properties. One way it does so is through its Preservation Easement Program established with the acceptance of its first easement in 2006. The mission of the Easement Committee is to introduce as many Michigan property owners as possible to the concept and benefits of conservation and preservation easements for their historic commercial and residential properties. These flexible legal instruments allow owners to work in cooperation with the MHPN to achieve mutual goals – the property owner can preserve an historically significant building in perpetuity and perhaps qualify for a tax benefit for doing so, while the MHPN is able to participate in the preservation of resources in keeping with is values and goals.
The Easement Committee Shall:
The members of the Easement Committee assist the Board in developing the yearly work plan. In addition to the tasks unique to each year’s work plan, the committee shall:
- Oversee the MHPN Easement Program brochure so that the program can be brought to the attention of interested property owners; property owners can education themselves on the concept of easements; and prospective easement donors can work through the application process. Update and reprint the brochure as necessary to give the public an accurate understanding of process, costs, and the potential for being eligible for tax incentives associated with donating easements to the MHPN.
- Conduct Easement Workshops around the state to introduce prospective easement donors to the program.
- Maintain the Easement Application Checklist so that a property owner seeking to participate in the easement program can work through the process with as limited amount of staff support as necessary.
- Process easements to assure that the Easement Committee reviews applications and legal counsel prepares easement agreements; the Board reviews and approves recommended easements, with subsequent signing, duplication, and recordation by the Executive Director or the MHPN Board President; and that qualified people conduct the baseline studies and subsequent annual monitoring.
- Work with MHPN staff to insure the Annual Easement Monitoring Program is carried out for the easements held by the MHPN. MHPN staff, members of the Committee and other volunteers will complete annual on-site inspections and the subsequent reports.
- To the extent possible, assist the Executive Director in administering the program in-house, reviewing changes to easement properties, answering questions about current or potential easements, etc.
- Revisit the Easement Program’s fee structure from time to time. Recommend changes to the Board when necessary, balancing the public’s ability to participate with the MHPN’s need to administer a program that can monitor and protect its easements in perpetuity.
- Revisit from time to time the distribution of the one-time payments made by easement donors. Currently, 1/3 is placed into general operating funds. The remaining 2/3 is set aside in the endowed Legal Defense Fund; the interest earned not only allows the Fund to keep up with inflation, but grow sufficiently to protect the easements in perpetuity. There may be a time when the percentage distribution, the size of the Defense Fund, the maturity of the MHPN’s easement program, or national standards for managing easement programs will suggest the need for change.
- Insure that easement records and documents are maintained by MHPN staff, so that the Easement Program’s administration is transparent and defensible, its benefits can be made clear during advocacy and outreach activities, and the value-added services of the MHPN can be touted to the public, elected officials, etc.
- Promote ways in which the tax benefits that may accrue to easement donors can be piggy-backed with other benefits to make preservation projects financially viable and competitive.
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