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Land along river protected from development

December 31, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Thanks to a conservation-minded woman, 75 acres of land along the Potomac River outside Shepherdstown will forever remain free from development.

Margaret Drennen, 86, bought the land about a month ago with the intention of donating it, in the form of an easement, to Potomac Conservancy. Mostly farmland, Drennen said she hopes her plot can be used for grazing, to grow crops or as a sod farm. The easement was finalized about a week ago.

"It will be under the vigilant eye of the Potomac Conservancy," Drennen said.

Drennen said a retirement home will be built on an additional 20 acres of land not part of the easement.

The land, which includes an old barn and farmhouse, is off Shepherd Grade Road, next to Cress Creek golf course.

More landowners should participate in the program, Drennen said.

"I hated the thought of seeing it changed," she said. "I hope others will want to keep down development as much as possible."

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Along with Drennen's land, an adjacent 94-acre parcel that includes a mile of riverfront property and an 8.5-acre piece of land have been included in the conservancy's program, said Meredith Lathbury, director of land protection and general counsel for Potomac Conservancy.

"Its rural character and open space, nature," are increasingly rare. "That makes it special," Lathbury said of the Drennen property.

The 94-acre parcel is owned by Eugene and Margaret Olcott and was the first land set aside for preservation by the Jefferson County Farmland Protection Board.

Because the land is now conserved, any future development will be severely limited, Lathbury said. Two homes are on the property and a third can be built. The land cannot be subdivided further, she said.

Overall, the Potomac Conservancy has preserved about 6,000 acres of land along the river and its tributaries, including around 3,500 in West Virginia, Lathbury said.

Most of the land in West Virginia is in Hampshire and Hardy counties. One piece of property has been included from Morgan County, but none in Berkeley County has been included, Lathbury said.

Having three adjacent parcels of land in Jefferson County is ideal, Lathbury said.

"We're really interested in building corridors of protected land," she said.

Donating land to the conservancy ensures water quality, natural habitats and pollution-filtering methods will remain in place.

Conservation easements are flexible legal tools that allow a landowner to maintain ownership and use of the property while protecting its rural qualities, according to information from the Potomac Conservancy. Tax and estate planning benefits accompany easements, Lathbury said.

When the land is sold or ownership is transferred to another person, the easement remains in place.

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