Historic Preservation Easements

ArsenalA historic preservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement that protects a significant historic, archaeological, or cultural resource. This agreement creates a preservation interest that is held by an authorized federal, state or local organization with specialized knowledge in historic preservation. It gives the holder of the preservation interest the authority to review and approve physical improvements to the property to ensure that modifications are compatible with the preservation of the historic resource and, in the case of archaeological sites, the ability to protect them from unauthorized disturbance.

Preservation interests held by the federal government and the Commission are executed in exchange for financial compensation such as a federal or state funded historic preservation grant or in response to a federal or state undertaking that affects an historic property. Preservation interests held by authorized local historic preservation organizations may yield positive federal, state and local tax benefits.

Preservation Interests with Tax Benefits

Internal Revenue Code Section 170(h) and Department of the Treasury Regulation Section 1.170A-14(d)(5) provide for income and estate tax deductions for charitable contributions of partial interests in historic property (principally easements). Generally, the IRS considers that a donation of a qualified real property interest to preserve a historically important land area or a certified historic structure meets the test of a charitable contribution for conservation purposes. For purposes of the charitable contribution provisions only, a certified historic structure need not be depreciable to qualify, may be a structure other than a building and may also be a portion of a building such as a façade, if that is all that remains, and may include the land area on which it is located.

The IRS definition of historically important land areas includes:

  • Independently significant land areas, including any related historic resources that meet National Register Criteria for Evaluation;
  • Land areas within registered historic districts, including buildings, that contribute to the significance of the historic district; and,
  • Land areas adjacent to a property individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places (but not within a historic district) where physical or environmental features of the land area contribute to the historic or cultural integrity of the historic property.

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Other State Preservation Interests

Archaeological Site Easements

The Commission holds easements on privately owned archaeological sites pursuant to 33 MRSA § §1551-1555.

Surplus State Historic Properties

The State Bureau of General Services, in consultation with the Commission, determines on a case by case basis when a preservation interest will be placed on surplus state historic properties. These preservation interests are either term or in perpetuity and are held by the Commission.