November 15, 2019
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Maine court clarifies property tax exemption for land trusts

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TOPSHAM, Maine — The Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled Thursday that land conservation is a charitable purpose under the Maine Property Tax Exemption statute. The ruling settles a dispute between the town of Limington and Francis Small Heritage Trust regarding the property tax exempt eligibility of FSHT’s lands.

“Maine’s land conservation community welcomes the Court’s opinion,” said Tim Glidden, President of Maine Coast Heritage Trust — a statewide land trust that serves as an information and education resource to the State’s ninety local land trusts. “Land conservation activities strengthen communities throughout Maine, including protecting water supplies, providing recreational access, and keeping land open for farming and forestry.”

In finding FSHT’s lands tax exempt eligible, the Supreme Judicial Court determined: “The Trust has opened its properties to the public year-round, free of charge, and permits school field trips, hunting, fishing, hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling.”  The Court then concluded, “(T)he Trust essentially operates its properties in the manner of a state park.”

“We are grateful for the Supreme Judicial Court’s decision,” shared FSHT’s Executive Director Alison Truesdale. “With the judicial proceedings behind us, we are looking forward to focusing once again on the educational programs we conduct on our properties and enhancing public access to the outdoors.”