Conservation Easement Terms Still Not Settled for Crystal Spring Property

Developers and landowner must finalize terms of easement to ensure no further development on land outside of senior community footprint

A threshold issue for citizens concerned about development of Crystal Spring is the prospect for future additional development on the property. They want assurance that if the Providence Point senior community project is ever approved, all other future development will be extinguished.

A binding legal document must be agreed upon ensuring the land will be protected in perpetuity. We have been insisting that the developer and landowner need to execute a permanent conservation easement that will extinguish all future development rights on the remaining 145-acres of the 180-acre Crystal Spring and Mas Que Farm properties outside the Providence Point 35-acre footprint. They have already committed that there will be no future development on the remaining property except for a new Wellness House and some relatively minor permissible improvements related to the equestrian center. They would not be permitted to remove any trees for these uses in the future.

Under Condition 19 in the Annexation Agreement, approximately 75 acres “in the general vicinity of the equestrian center” and “in the area adjacent to Spa Road” shall be placed under a conservation easement by the owner once a development plan for the property is approved. The developers and landowner have also pledged to preserve all undeveloped land outside of the 35-acre senior community footprint.

In its June 12 comments on environmental shortcomings in the developer’s latest plans, the City has directed the developer to delineate the require 75-acre conservation easement and the proposed forest conservation easement to protect all remaining forest, and more importantly, provide draft annexation and forest conservation easements for the rest of the property.

We have urged that both the developer, National Lutheran Communities & Services, and the owner,  Ms. Janet Richardson-Pearson, grant one joint in-perpetuity conservation easement to the Scenic Rivers Land Trust (SRLT) to extinguish all development outside the CCRC footprint (35 acres) with the exceptions noted above. This easement would also assure permanent protection of all remaining or replanted forests. The terms of such an agreement are critically important to prevent any future efforts to convince a court to allow development once the NLCS development is completed.  

We have worked with the SRLT to develop a draft easement with very tight language, which is currently being considered by the City, developer, owner, and their attorney. The key elements of the conservation easement would:

1.  Apply to all 179-acres of the property excluding only the Providence Point development footprint;

2.  Extinguish all development rights outside the Providence Point footprint except for the construction of a new wellness house and equestrian-related agricultural uses including structures related to the equestrian center, and

3.  Permanently protect all forest remaining outside of the forest cleared for the Providence Point footprint, including reforested areas; and

4.   Allow utility services and the planned parallel road to be constructed across Crystal Spring Farm Road and the rest of the property to Spa Road.  

The proposed easement language closely follows the language of the model conservation easement format of the Maryland Environmental Trust. It has been modified to fit the unique characteristics of Crystal Spring/Mas Que Farm. The experts at SRLT stand ready to meet with the owners and draw-up and file the necessary legal documents for the easement. 

We have seen both the standard conservation easement the City uses, and a proffered easement submitted by the developer four or more years ago.  Both are unacceptable and will not work at the Crystal Spring/Mas Que Farm site. Nor will using the Annapolis Conservancy as the grantee as they do not have the staffing to draw-up and, importantly, to assure compliance in perpetuity of the complex terms of the easement through periodic inspections.

The SRLT has been operating in Anne Arundel County for 30 years and when new easements are completed, will hold 69 conservation easements in the County for a total of 3,061 acres.

This is the fourth installment in a four-part series of posts on where we stand on each of our main concerns with the filings. Click here to read our first post on trafficClick here to read our second post on reducing forest clearing and ensuring 100% reforestationClick here to read our third post on strengthening stormwater management to prevent the further degradation of Crab Creek and the South River.