Master Project Checklist

Maine Coast Heritage Trust staff uses this document in its land conservation efforts. It is designed for internal MCHT use, and is provided here as a reference or guide. Each land trust has its own mission, priorities, and organizational characteristics that should direct how it does its work and what documents it uses. Please feel free to use the ideas, processes, and even specific text contained in this document, but be sure to tailor them for your organization. Land trusts should always use a lawyer knowledgeable in land transactions when working on a conservation easement or preserve acquisition. MCHT does not guarantee or provide advice as to the tax consequences of any project or action.

This is the checklist used by Maine Coast Heritage Trust project managers as they work through conservation projects. It is designed to be kept at the front of any project file, and updated throughout a project: it is a single sheet of legal size paper, double-sided, black and white. It helps staff remember to do every step, in the right order, and it keeps track of what has or has not been done on the project. It also serves as a record for the file, of what steps were completed and when. It has been modified slightly to be more relevant to other land trusts.

Specific documents referenced in this checklist are linked from below. Other land trust may have similar checklists with different steps that are similarly effective for their organizations. We provide this here as a guide, and welcome comments and suggestions.

Master Project Checklist for [project name] In [town, county]

This is a Purchase Transaction (either fee or conservation easement)

(steps that are necessary for purchase transactions only are shown in CAPITAL below)

This is a Fee Ownership Transaction

(steps necessary for fee ownership transactions only are shown in bold below)

This is a Conservation Easement Transaction

(steps necessary for easement transactions only are shown in Italic)

All items in plain text should be done in any type transaction

ENTER DATE/INITIALS IN BOXES

Gather Resources and Conduct Preliminary Assessment:

Create a Project File

MCHT Gift Acceptance Policy document provided to landowner/donor (policy includes mention of the need for landowner to be represented by legal counsel) (mailed or emailed (circle one)).

LETTER IDENTIFYING NEED FOR LANDOWNER REPRESENTATION /ATTORNEY (if no gift component and thus policy not sent)

Examine aerial photos and available GIS data (ex: Beginning with Habitat, IF&W data) create maps

Examine Town Comprehensive Plan; historic information; scenic inventories; etc

Obtain basics such as tax maps and/or surveys; deeds; property tax records and current use status

Check if Land Trust has existing past file or records on the property

Assess Community values; needs; impacts; uses (write notes here on form or put in project file)

Visit with landowner and walk the property (or state reasons why not or not yet)

MCHT Criteria and IRS Public Benefit Checklist completed and filed.

Stewardship Input:

Develop Stewardship Budget

Stewardship Budget CE

Stewardship Budget Fee

Determine any specific restrictions, rights or management needs

Discuss needs and issues with Stewardship Staff/Committee or Volunteers

Assess management needs such as trails, parking and safety issues (put notes in project file)

Internal Review and Approval of a Possible Project:

Prepare preliminary project outline and report within MCHT database and circulate to staff (or land trust board/committees)

Schedule and hold conference call among lands, stewardship and development staff to discuss project: held on _________ and project approved (if rejected note here and file)

Committee and Board Approvals:

Fill in and distribute Project Summary for Board forms for upcoming meeting(s) of Lands Committee, Board

BOARD APPROVAL OF ENTERING INTO PURCHASE OPTION AGREEMENT (IF OPTION IS USED)

Lands Committee Discussion and approval

Board Approval of Project (date:_________ ), describe any caveats or specifics here:

DATE/INITIALS

Negotiations, Due Diligence and Closing Document Preparation:

DRAFT PURCHASE OPTION AGREEMENT OR PURCHASE AND SALE DOCUMENTS

Negotiate the easement terms using Annotated Conservation Plan as a guide. Land trust attorney will use this to develop a conservation easement specific to the individual property by using the Conservation Easement Template.

APPRAISAL ORDERED: _____________ [use an appraiser that meets federal standards (see http://www.irs.gov/irb/2006-46_IRB/ar13.html for specifics); filed per Recordkeeping Policy]

Stewardship gift determined or pledged, or sources identified

Hazardous Waste Forms completed/approved by land trust attorney (when necessary)

Survey Work done if necessary or boundaries GPSed and mapped (circle one)

Title work (and draft insurance policy binder) ordered, completed and reviewed by land trust attorney (or if attorney recommends a letter regarding title from the landowner's attorney). Make sure as part of the title research that all property taxes that have been billed are paid by either the landowner or (where appropriate) by the land trust.

Confirmed that no liens or home equity loans, etc exist

Closing:

EXERCISE PURCHASE OPTION AGREEMENT (IF USING)

Written (email is acceptable) authorization for landowner signature from landowner's attorney

Sig docs finalize, formatted and approved by land trust attorney (including exhibits)

Baseline data documentation completed

Closing Date Set and Landowner, LO attorney notified (in writing if required under P&S or Option)

CLOSING STATEMENT PREPARED AND APPROVED BY LAND TRUST ATTORNEY AND LANDOWNER ATTORNEY

PREPARE WIRE OR CHECK

ADDITIONAL TAX FORMS PREPARED IF NECESSARY (LIST: __________ )

see: http://www.maine.gov/revenue/forms/rew/rew.htm

Transfer Tax Form Prepared and Approved by land trust attorney

Conservation Easement and Baseline signed by land trust and landowner

Documents Recorded (____________)

After Closing:

Complete records of the transaction according to MCHT Recordkeeping Policy

Thank you letter(s) with IRS language (if a gift component) (send immediately after closing)

8283 attachment sent if bargain sale or gift

Review and Assess Landowner Appraisal before signing the 8283 form

Consider a thank you gift if appropriate

Handoff meeting to discuss the details of the easement/preserve with stewardship volunteers or staff (discuss project history, landowner background and wishes (non-binding), project description, possible stewardship issues, directions to the property)

Follow up to make sure that stewardship funds pledged were received by the land trust.