Triangle Greenways Council busy as tax credit is set to expire

rstradling@newsobserver.comDecember 16, 2013 

— The Triangle Greenways Council has acquired an additional 33.6 acres of land along Walnut Creek on the south side of Raleigh as part of a flurry of activity ahead of the expiration of the state’s conservation tax credit.

The land, east of New Hope Road, is composed mostly of bottom land hardwood forests and wetlands, said Bill Flournoy, the council’s president. Part of a 4-mile extension of the Walnut Creek Trail, which the city expects to finish in January, crosses the property.

The donation to the council comes during an unusually busy year for the group, which expects to acquire more than 200 acres of land in the Triangle, more than double what it does in a normal year, Flournoy said. Landowners want to donate or sell land to the council before the state’s conservation tax credit expires at the end of the month.

“Every one of our transactions, with one exception, has involved a tax credit,” Flournoy said.

Under the 30-year-old tax credit program, people who donate land for conservation could have their tax bills reduced by up to 25 percent of the value of the donated property. Since its inception, the credit has helped protect 238,000 acres with a donation value of $1.3 billion.

The state legislature voted this summer to eliminate several tax credits and deductions to support a lower, flat state income tax rate. The deadline has created a land rush of sorts for land trusts across the state, who are racing to complete acquisitions of property and easements by year’s end.

Those who donate land to conservation groups can still deduct the value of the donation from their income for federal tax purposes.

The council aims to acquire land within corridors that local governments have earmarked for future greenways. It owns about 750 acres in Wake, Durham and Johnston counties, Flournoy said, including about 190 acres along Walnut Creek. Eventually, the council would like to turn much of that property over to local governments.

There is no process for transferring the council’s land to Raleigh, said Vic Lebsock, the city’s senior greenway planner. And in some cases, as with the 33.6 acres the council recently acquired, the city already had the easements it needed to build a greenway trail.

Still, the city is happy to have the council protecting land along its corridors, Lebsock said.

“The council is a conservation group, and they obviously have the same intent for the property as the city,” he said. “If it’s not owned by that type of group, then there’s always the risk that there would be some development that would preclude the goals that we have.”

Stradling: 919-829-4739

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