Virginia CZM Program: 2014 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:CZM logo

52

Grantee:

Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission 

Project Title:

Access Authority Private Land Giving Program Development for Enhancement of Public Water Access on the Middle Peninsula 

Project Description as Proposed:

Public This project will result in new public access policy and procedures necessary to capitalize on a fundamental shift in how public access waterfront lands are obtained and leveraged within the Virginia Coastal Zone by encouraging the private donation of waterfront land for public benefit. Across much of the Virginia Coastal Zone 99% of the coastal waterfront land is privately held and 1% of coastal lands are publicly owned resulting in disproportionate water access opportunities for those not owning waterfront land.  

Previous Virginia CZMA 306 investments have resulted in specific Virginia legislation enabling the creation of Public Access Authorities across much of Tidewater and Coastal Virginia.  The capacity building investment continues to offer the VACZMP one of the highest ROI (return on investment) for public access planning and land acquisitions.  Coastal Virginia is now experiencing what is hopefully an on-going trend in waterfront land-owner benevolence.  Sizeable tracts of private waterfront land are being gifted (fee simple acquisition), free and clear with limited or no deed encumbrances specifically for the provision of new coastal public access.  The donated sites offer public access to both land designated by the Commonwealth as beaches (§ 28.2-1400) and new public access sites as defined within the Enabling Authority of Public Access Authorities (§ 15.2-6602)   These properties are uniquely and spatially diverse sites located along the lower Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries offering the public new conservation, recreational, ecological and esthetic value as public trust resources.  The Middle Peninsula Chesapeake Bay Public Access Authority (MP-PAA), a special purpose political subdivision enabled in 2003 by the Virginia General Assembly, has been the recipient of dozens of separate, deeded private waterfront donations for public benefit with more scheduled donations awaiting legal closing.  We intend to expand altruistic giving and to maximize the leverage match potential of donated land value for current and future 306a projects.

Altruistic giving for public benefit is very unique and not utilized and little understood in governmental circles.  The MP-PAA is making a positive contribution to society as well as solving long standing water access problems which local governments have been unable to address. To understand the scope of this project, our starting point is the end point for most 306a projects—land acquisition.   The project outcome is twofold:

1. Develop a standardized process or programmatic pathway for the gifting of private waterfront land to public entities.  We will create the administrative and legal path to legally encumber donated waterfront land for public access benefit; and

2. Develop a process for the three coastal Public Access Authorities (Middle Peninsula, Northern Neck and Eastern Shore) to strategically capture and use donated waterfront land value as potential match/overmatch for federal and state land acquisition and protection programs, such as 306A projects or other Commonwealth of Virginia land acquisition programs that do not have access to any other non-federal match sources.   

The most important aspect of the grant is the recordation and acquisition of gifted lands for public access that can be aligned with and leveraged against other projects in need. To realize this, those in a position to advocate for altruistic giving (local lawyers, surveyors, accountants, land trust members, soil scientists, real-estate agents, etc.) need guidance and a standard process to follow so that Planners working with and for Public Access Authorities can better coordinate the gifting process. The success of private gifting of waterfront land for public benefit is demonstrated by the growing portfolio of private waterfront land already donated to the MP-PAA.  The MP-PAA portfolio consists of over 30 parcels totaling 160 acres across Gloucester, Mathews, and Middlesex Counties valued in excess of $2,000,000.

Our project will develop a targeted private land donation for public benefit marketing campaign by focusing on localities which have expressed direct need for more public water access. Essex County Virginia will serve as the pilot locality to implement the public access marketing campaign.  The 2003 and draft 2014 Essex County Comprehensive Plan both speak to the need for more waterfront public access.  Elected officials have expressed a directive to the Public Access Authority to develop an outreach-marketing program specifically for Essex County seeking private waterfront donations for public benefit. The project proposes to research and develop a professionally designed education-marketing outreach program titled Private Waterfront Land Giving Program for Public Water Access Benefit.   Research will be needed to determine the elements necessary for inclusion in an outreach program. 

Research will include background on various approaches to altruistic giving using federal and state tax code as tools to guide land donations including using only state conservation tax credits; making a direct donation to a public entity; and utilizing both tax credits and public donations as a method for giving.  Additionally, research will be done detailing the costs and benefits (pros and cons) to local governments for property that is donated to a Public Access Authority related to loss of taxable real-estate and the development of new programs, services, and amenities to validate the rationale for forgoing revenue in exchange for new public benefit.

The outreach-marketing program will include approaches for both print and social media to reach those who are in a position to influence private giving - local CPA’s, local attorneys, Land Trust members, authorized on-site soil evaluators, surveyors,  and general media outreach strategies for local newspapers including messaging for endowments to support the work of a Public Access Authority.

Federal Funding:

$40,000

Project Contact:

Lewie Lawrence, 804.758.2311; llawrence@mppdc.com  

Project Status:

10/15/14 - 10/15/15; Project Completed

Final Product Received:

Public Access Authority Private Land Giving Program Development for Enhancement of Public Water Access on the Middle Peninsula (PDF)

Project Summary Provided by Grantee:

The concept of altruistic giving has made great strides in the Middle Peninsula and has contributed greatly to the success of the MP-CBPAA.  With increasing changes to federal and state regulations, property owners are looking for ways to alleviate themselves of financial and mental burden that owning coastal property has now become. Middle Peninsula Chesapeake Bay Public Access Authority has been the recipient of approximately 36 private land donations since 2013. Through these donations, MP-CBPAA has been able to provide public access to the water for recreational, educational and economic uses. However, the phenomena has not been as successful as other land donation and conservation programs largely due to lack of education of the public sector and private landowners on the benefits associated with private land donations for public use.  From a fiscal point of view, the local governments see private land donations to public or nonprofit entities as a reduction in revenue generated through tax roles. Many private property owners also lack knowledge on the economic benefits associated with private land donations. The products developed as a result of this project will help to address these issues. 

MPPDC staff researched various land donation marketing and outreach programs being implemented throughout the country and compiled characteristics of each program such as outreach method, incentives offered, criteria for prospective land donations, to identify the most common practices of a successful land donation program. Best practices recommendations were compiled and used to help design the media outreach campaign. Findings will be a part of a final report posted at www.mppdc.com.
MPPDC staff researched tax benefits for private waterfront land donations to public entities and drafted a narrative of findings on federal and state tax benefits of a land donation. The information was provided to Strategic Communications Consultants by staff  to assist with the development of the marketing strategy by providing a better understanding of available tax incentives to prospective landowners who may be considering a land donations.  Findings are included in the final report.
MPPDC staff contracted and coordinated with Consultants to create an online and print media campaign on the MPCB Altruistic Giving program and benefits associated with land donations for public use.  The campaign targets potential donors and professionals who may work with potential donors, such as lawyers, real estate agents, etc. Media and outreach material will be posted on line and distributed to local professional offices that work with the targeted audience.
MPPDC staff consulted with Stephens Law Firm regarding consolidated legal services on donations and developed principle points for working with legal professionals on the acquisition of donated property.  Report on legal findings included in final report.
MPPDC staff researched data and drafted a report outlining the benefits associated with land donations for public use and various methods used by other land trust entities to quantify their economic benefits. The report analyzes revenue generated on current PAA owned property in comparison with tax assessment review for their respective localities to compare revenue generation patterns by local governments on donated land for public use versus the same by private use. The report also highlights deficiencies in data availability for the Middle Peninsula region.  The final report will be posted at www.mppdc.com.

Disclaimer: This project summary provides the federal dollars initially awarded to the grantee. Due to underexpenditure or reprogramming of grant funds, this figure may change. For more information on the allocation of coastal grant funds, please contact Laura McKay, Virginia Coastal Program Manager, at 804.698.4323 or email: Laura.McKay@deq.virginia.gov

A more detailed Scope of Work for this project is available. Please direct your request for a copy to Virginia.Witmer@deq.virginia.gov

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000


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