The characteristics that make your property a historic landmark will be described in the deed of easement and documented with photographs. The easement will clearly define which features are protected. It will generally encompass all historic structures, including historic outbuildings, as well as the primary building on the property. In addition, archaeological sites, historic landscape features, and adjacent open space are usually protected. Incompatible uses such as subdivision and commercial development are generally limited or prohibited.
While easements ensure protection, they also provide for some flexibility. Buildings change all the time, of course, particularly when they remain in private hands for private use. Easements accommodate architectural or other changes such as kitchen and bathroom remodeling that will not compromise the historic nature of the property. Such changes are subject to approval by the Virginia Board of Historic Resources. The Department of Historic Resources (DHR) staff works closely with property owners when such changes are planned to ensure that the alterations will be appropriate, and that the approval process will proceed smoothly and successfully.
Why Give an Easement?
For most easement donors, the primary motivation behind the gift is a desire to see the property protected. Because the easement is perpetual, the donor is assured that all future owners of the property will be bound by its conditions. This can be a welcome guarantee for those who have invested considerable time, money, or energy in the restoration or preservation of a historic property.
In addition, by accepting an easement, the Commonwealth makes a commitment to the preservation of the property. The department’s staff will provide technical advice and assistance, as well as literature on preservation treatments. The department maintains lists of consultants, contractors, and other professionals experienced in working with historic buildings. The staff is obligated to inspect easement properties periodically. Such inspections provide an opportunity to discuss maintenance issues, proposed changes, or other issues related to your property. Staff members are also available to meet with you on request to discuss your concerns and give advice on the most appropriate treatment for your property.