As a commercial real estate developer, Tom Cafferty is no stranger to conservation easements. Over the course of his career, he has developed over 3 million square feet of commercial space, and he has used conservation easements to preserve open space in many of his projects.
"These conservation easements create some good economic benefits," said Cafferty, President of Cafferty Development Co. "They offer tax incentives for them, but they really work well for everybody. Obviously you could sell the land and make more money, but it's a good way to get tax benefits and turn it into something that makes everybody happy."
Cafferty is a fan of open space himself, which is one of the reasons why he and his wife Debra Cafferty chose to move to Great Falls 20 years ago. Last year, the Cafferty's decided that it was time to look into a conservation easement for their own property.
"Being a commercial real estate developer, I try to maintain open space and parkland on my adjoining properties, so I thought I would do it with my own since that was the intent of the property in the first place," said Cafferty. "I like having that open space next to me, and our neighborhood has a lot of open space in it already."
THE PROPERTY IS 5.1 acres of woodland which borders two perennial streams on Clark's Branch stream north of Great Falls Park. The streams feed directly into the Potomac River and are in the Chesapeake watershed, which means that the conservation of the Cafferty property contributes to the overall health of the Chesapeake Bay, and subsequently the community's drinking water.
Cafferty turned to the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust (NVCT) to assist him with the conservation easement designation process.
"They are a very sophisticated organization," said Cafferty. "They basically work as a partner with you through the whole process and if you've got an experienced organization helping you it's better – the folks over at NVCT really know what they're doing."
The NVCT has preserved 1,344 acres of land in Northern Virginia and is an organization that works directly with landowners to ascertain the best conservation options for their properties.
"This is a fantastic gift by the landowners, Tom and Debra Cafferty, to the public," said Whit Field, Vice President and General Consul to NVCT. "It preserves in perpetuity this wonderful forested property that is bordered by two streams and a haven for numerous wildlife communities in one of the fastest growing areas in the country. It helps protect our precious waters and preserves a special piece of open space forever."
For his part, Tom Cafferty was more than happy to contribute to the green space of Great Falls.
"Being a developer it's not all bad to give back every now and then," said Cafferty. "Not that this was any huge beneficial deal, but I try to create open space and parkland next to all of our properties."