About Limited Development

Limited development (sometimes called “conservation development”) is the development of a small portion of a large tract of land in order to preserve and maintain the remainder of the tract as open space in perpetuity. Proceeds from the sale of the developed portion of land are used to cover acquisition costs, front end development costs, filing fees, engineering, legal and other consulting fees and other development costs.

Limited development bridges the gap between the work of large habitat preservation institutions, like the Nature Conservancy or the Audubon Society, and well-meaning developers. It seeks to achieve significant conservation of commercially and environmentally valuable land where an otherwise developable tract of land cannot, or will not, be preserved in its entirety, but where the protection of at least 50% of the site will add significantly to Massachusetts’ permanent open space.

Who We Work With

Thousands of acres of Massachusetts’ open space disappear annually, usually as a result of uncontrolled and undirected single-family residential development. This land has important aesthetic, passive recreational and natural resource value. But large tracts of land are increasingly hard to preserve. Relatively few open space parcels contain natural habitats sufficiently unique and valuable to attract the kind of funding that permits total site preservation.

At the same time, substantial parcels of land with recreational, rather than habitat, importance are often too valuable for individuals, trusts and estates to give away, too costly for non-profit groups to accept and manage without an endowment, and too expensive for municipalities to purchase outright. Land classified under M.G.L. Chapters 61, 61A and 61B is especially likely to escape preservation when the 120 day right of first refusal is triggered by a removal from forest or agricultural use. Most towns are unable to quickly mobilize the financial and political resources required to acquire large, expensive parcels of developable land within the 120-day option period. There is a great deal of ground between pure habitat preservation and uncontrolled residential tract development. Limited development is an open space preservation tool that encourages the conservation of most if not all of large tracts of land for conservation and passive recreational purposes when no better means is at hand.