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Open Space & Farmland Preservation

Woodstock,  the second largest town in Connecticut, two to three times as large (area wise) as most Connecticut towns. The total area of Woodstock is 61.8 square miles, or 39,550 acres. Of that, by 2003, only about 3,044 acres (7.7%) of land in the town is committed open space. The statewide goal for open space is 21%.

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Committed Open Space

Committed open space is land that is presently open and committed to remain as such. It is usually owned (either outright, or preserved via an easement or development rights) by state, municipal, public utilities and not-profit organizations. Such areas include forests, parks, water accesses, preserves, wildlife management areas, fisheries, and farmland in the Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) Program, local Land Trust and conservation organization areas.  There are other large parcels in town that are open space which have a low probability of being developed (e.g., Yale-Myers Forest, Southbridge Water Company property, Putnam Fish & Game Club, Glenn Fiditch Land Trust). However, since they are NOT legally protected from development, they are not included on this list.  Open space land does not necessarily mean open to the public. Nipmuck State Forest, Roseland Park and town owned land such as Crystal Pond Park are publicly accessible. Other categories have restrictions on access.  

Please respect the private property rights of the landowners and abide by their policies.

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Open Space Land Acquisition & Preservation Committee

A Citizen's Primer on Open Space and Farmland Preservation Strategies*

At the northern reach of the Quinebaug River in Connecticut, Woodstock has long enjoyed an agricultural heritage due to fertile soils and a temperate climate.  Gently rolling hills, open fields, forests and waterways have been valued not only for their scenic beauty, but also for their economic potential and the contributions that these resources have made for centuries to the quality of life in the region.  


Agriculture, dairy farming, timber harvesting and recreational opportunities are only some of Woodstock's assets.  The agrarian economy has fostered village centers and neighborhoods that are now part of the precious New England landscapes.  However, there is enormous pressure to develop the "Last Green Valley" of which Woodstock is a part, as it forms the hub of at least four major metropolitan areas on the corridor between Boston and Washington  D.C.  Farmland is being irreversibly lost to commercial and residential development, timberlands and their wildlife habitats are becoming fragmented, and the backdrops of the historic villages are threatened by suburban style sprawl.


At the turn of this century, the citizens of Woodstock and surrounding areas have the historic opportunity to contribute to the preservation of farmland and open space, and in doing so, preserve the unique character of this region.  


It is strongly recommended that property owners consult with an attorney and/or tax consultant to determine the most appropriate tool for each situation.


OPEN SPACE AND FARMLAND PRESERVATION STRATEGIES

  • Outright Conveyance: Land may be transferred to the town, a local land trust, or nature conservancy through a donation, "Bargain Sale", or sale at fair market value. Restrictions may be imposed on the future use of the property, according to the donor's wishes.
  • Transfer in Trust: Property, or a lesser interest therein, may be donated to a nonprofit organization such as a local, state, or national land conservation or historic trust, for the purpose of carrying out personal wishes with respect to the property's preservation and use.  This is an effective method of assuring the perpetuation of the donor's intentions where restricted use is a primary concern. 
  • Reservation of Life Estate (Remainder Interest): In making a gift of land, and a personal residence if located on the property, a life estate may be reserved which permits use of the property (farm and/or residence) for the remainder of the donor's life or, if so stipulated, for the lives of the spouse and children. 
  • Conservation Easement (Conservation Restriction): A conservation easement is a legal agreement that a property owner makes to restrict the type and amount of development that may take place on a property to preserve natural/historic resources.  Each easement's restrictions are tailored to the particular property and the interests of the individual owner.  An easement "runs with the land", which means that the original owner and all subsequent owners are bound by the restrictions of the easement.  
  • Testamentary Gift (Devise): A gift of land by means of a will, may include one or more of the alternatives previously discussed, including a conservation easement and reservation of life estates. 
  • Endowment: The gift of land may be accompanied by an endowment fund for the purpose of supporting the conservation effort in perpetuity. 


There are many other ways to support land conservation efforts including granting a "right of first refusal" to a land trust; lease of land to a land trust or to an agricultural interest so that it may be maintained in productivity; exchanging mutual covenants with neighboring land owners to preserve significant features or views; entering into a management agreement with a land trust or government agency to manage wildlife habitat; creation of charitable annuities and charitable remainder trusts allowing an owner to transfer land to a conservation organization while realizing income and/or tax benefits; and purchase of development rights by the State to create a conservation easement on agricultural land.


What is the Woodstock Open Space Land Acquisition and Preservation Committee?

The Open Space Land Acquisition and Preservation Committee serves at the pleasure of the Woodstock Board of Selectmen, and is charged with identifying and prioritizing potential acquisitions of land or interests in land for open space, passive recreation or agricultural purposes.  Working within the framework of the Plan of Conservation and Development and the Conservation Commission's Plan of Open Space and Conservation, the Committee makes recommendations to the Board of Selectmen regarding land acquisition and other proper uses of the Agricultural Land Preservation and Land Acquisition Fund.  The Committee continues to explore additional sources of funding for land acquisition and preservation efforts, as well as to provide the public with information.

Please call the Office of the Selectmen at (860) 928-0208, or attend the Committee's monthly meeting held at Woodstock Town Hall - see the Town Calendar for meeting schedules.


* The text above is from a June 2002 brochure prepared by the Open Space Land Acquisition and Farmland Preservation Committee

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Agriculture in Woodstock, CT

Our agricultural heritage. 

The majority of farm acreage in Woodstock is devoted to pasture for dairy cattle, silage corn, hay, and Christmas tree farming.  Several landowners also grow fruit and vegetable produce and nursery stock, some of which is sold in town at roadside stands.  There are also boarding horse farms, beef cattle farms, maple syrup producers, honey producers, and a poultry farm.  Woodstock is also fortunate to have many landowners who maintain agricultural fields for lease to farmers.  The availability of this acreage for lease in close proximity to working farms is also an important part of Woodstock's agricultural resources.  


In addition to their farm crops and products, these farms add greatly to the aesthetic beauty and rural character of Woodstock, which is so often cited as one of its greatest assets.  Farmlands are the principal component of "manmade" open space.  Farmlands also provide excellent wildlife habitat for many species, and in some cases recreational opportunities such as hunting, walking and bird watching.


The economic and tax advantages of Woodstock's agricultural community to its citizens need to be fully appreciated before they are significantly threatened.  There are numerous studies that support the conclusion that farming and agriculture provide more tax dollars to the town than they require in service expenditures and their preservation will provide Woodstock with added income.  


In a study published in June of 1998 by the American Farmland Trust, Farmland Information Center, entitled "Summary of Cost of Community Services, Revenue-to-Expenditure Ratio in Dollars," the central conclusion is that farmland only costs a community, on average, $.31 in services for every $1.00 it generates in revenue.


Dairy farmers in Woodstock generate annual gross revenue of approximately six million dollars.  Agriculture is estimated to provide at least 103 full-time jobs and from eighty to ninety part-time jobs (Source: Agenda, Town Of Woodstock Special Town Meeting, 06-21-2000).

In June 2000, town residents affirmed the rights of farmers by adopting a special Right to Farm Ordinance.


For several reasons, farmland in Woodstock is probably more threatened by loss to development than any other type of open space.  Therefore, farmland preservation deserves special consideration.   

  • Unlike wetlands, state laws or regulations do not restrict farmland use or development. Most of Woodstock's farmland is quite suitable to residential development. In the last decade, Woodstock's population increased more than 20%, with the approval of 349 new residential subdivision lots. Agricultural lands are especially vulnerable to development because they are generally flat, cleared, beautiful, and have soils suitable for septic systems. Since 1984, Connecticut has lost 21% of its farmland to development and urban sprawl. (Source: USDA 2001 Farmland Protection brochure, 12/01).
  • Many of our active farms and prime farm soils are adjacent to or within Woodstock's most rapidly developing neighborhoods. 
  • Commercial farm owners have been caught in an economic squeeze between the rising cost of doing business and markets for farm products that are holding steady or declining.  
  • These farms are family businesses, and the land may represent the owner's greatest asset. 

For these reasons, developing and implementing a farmland preservation plan appears to be the town's greatest long-term conservation challenge.  


Central to our approach is raising awareness among Woodstock's citizens that maintaining a healthy and thriving agricultural community is the backbone of any potentially successful open space plan.  It is our goal to work in close concert with all facets of Woodstock's agricultural community to establish and maintain Town objectives that protect existing farms, that encourage the continuing presence of farming and that promote the successful practice of agribusiness by local farmers.


More Information and References: 


More information:

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Local Land Trusts 

  • The New Roxbury Land Trust, Inc. a local, nonprofit, membership supported land trust works to protect open space and conserve agricultural lands. P.O. Box 98   Woodstock, CT  06281-0098   (860) 928-9729 
  • Wolf Den Land Trust accepts land and conservation easements in this general area.  P.O Box 404  Brooklyn, CT 06234-0404.  (860) 974-1991 
  • Wyndham Land Trust protects natural resources by allowing land to return to its natural state. email: info@wyndhamlandtrust.org, address: PO Box 302 Pomfret Center, CT 06259, 860.963.2090


Other Non-profit, Non-government Conservation Organizations that Accept, Manage or Buy Land


More Information and Ref