Master Project Checklist

July 10, 2019

This is the checklist used by Maine Coast Heritage Trust project managers as they work through conservation projects. 

Maine Coast Heritage Trust staff uses this checklist to document steps taken for each land conservation project. It is kept at the front of any project file and updated throughout a project: it is a single sheet of legal sized 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. 

This document is provided here as an example for reference. More detailed project-specific checklists are often used. (Please contact MCHT for more information.)

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 seek advice from a lawyer knowledgeable in land transactions when working on a conservation easement or preserve acquisition. MCHT does not provide legal advice, or guarantee or provide advice as to the tax consequences of any project or action.

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


Note:

  • Steps that are necessary for purchase transactions only are shown in CAPITALS.
  • Steps necessary for fee ownership transactions only are shown in bold.
  • Steps necessary for easement transactions only are shown in italic.
  • All items in plain text should be done in any type transaction.

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’s Gift Acceptance Policy (PDF) 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 Guiding Principles and Land Protection Criteria (PDF) completed and filed.


Stewardship Input

[    ] Develop Stewardship Budget (and file)

Stewardship Budget CE (Word) template

Stewardship Budget Fee (Word) template

[    ] Determine any specific restrictions (through funding sources or other), 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 project files database and circulate to staff (or land trust board/committees)

[    ] Schedule and hold conference call among lands, stewardship and development staff or committees to discuss project: held on (date:_________) 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. (As of July 2019, MCHT uses forms within our project database that are more lengthy than the following, and take into consideration additional factors like climate resilience and community impact. Contact MCHT if you’d like more information or a copy of the current 5-page form.)

Project Summary for Board, Conservation Easement Donation (Word)

PROJECT SUMMARY FOR BOARD, CONSERVATION EASEMENT PURCHASE (Word)

Project Summary for Board, Fee Donation (Word)

PROJECT SUMMARY FOR BOARD, FEE PURCHASE (Word)

[    ]  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:


Negotiations, Due Diligence and Closing Document Preparation

[    ] If ownership in LLC, S-Corp, Partnership, send letter for IRS due diligence regarding syndicates

           IRS Due Diligence Regarding Syndicates Letter (Word)

[    ] DRAFT PURCHASE OPTION AGREEMENT OR PURCHASE AND SALE DOCUMENTS

PURCHASE OPTION AGREEMENT, CONSERVATION EASEMENT (Word)

PURCHASE OPTION AGREEMENT, FEE (Word)

PURCHASE AND SALE DOCUMENT, FOR FEE (Word)

[    ] Negotiate the easement terms (MCHT uses 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. Contact MCHT for latest versions of our Annotated Conservation Plan and Conservation Easement Template, as they change regularly.)

[    ] APPRAISAL ORDERED: _____________ [use an appraiser that meets appropriate standards (see http://www.irs.gov/irb/2006-46_IRB/ar13.html for specifics); filed per  recordkeeping policy (MCHT’s Recordkeeping Policy (PDF) for example)] 

[    ] Stewardship gift determined or pledged, or sources identified

[    ] Hazardous Waste Due Diligence Forms completed/approved by land trust attorney (for all fee, and for CEs with affirmative rights)

Hazardous Waste Disclaimer (Word)

Hazardous Waste Transaction Screen for Potential Environmental Concerns (PDF)

Hazardous Waste Environmental Due Diligence Procedures (PDF)

[    ] 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/counsel 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 and Landowner’s attorney notified (in writing if required under P&S or Option)

[    ] CLOSING STATEMENT PREPARED AND APPROVED BY LAND TRUST ATTORNEY AND LANDOWNER ATTORNEY, CLOSING STATEMENT EXAMPLE (Excel) 

[    ] PREPARE WIRE OR CHECK

[    ] ADDITIONAL TAX FORMS AND AFFIDAVITS PREPARED IF NECESSARY (LIST: __________ ) see: http://www.maine.gov/revenue/forms/rew/rew.htm

[    ] Transfer Tax Form Prepared (and, at MCHT, approved by counsel)

[    ] Conservation Easement and Baseline signed by land trust and landowner

[    ] Documents Recorded (date:____________)


After Closing

[    ] Complete records of the transaction according to recordkeeping policy (MCHT’s Recordkeeping Policy (PDF) for example)

[    ] Thank You Letter with IRS Language (Word) (if a gift component) (send immediately after closing)

[    ] 8283 Conservation Purposes Attachment for IRS (Word) sent if bargain sale or gift of a CE

[    ] Review and Assess Landowner Appraisal before signing the 8283 form, file

[    ] 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.


Note:

  • Steps that are necessary for purchase transactions only are shown in CAPITALS.
  • Steps necessary for fee ownership transactions only are shown in bold.
  • Steps necessary for easement transactions only are shown in italic.
  • All items in plain text should be done in any type transaction.