Greenbelt Land Trust Withdraws from Whitley Property Negotiations

STATEMENT

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

            Greenbelt Land Trust of Mid-Missouri is not involved with the conclusion of the dispute on the property formerly owned by Jim and Joanna Whitley. We were asked to remove language from our conservation easement that would have put it at permanent, perpetual risk of violation and extinguishment, and, when we refused to do so, the representatives of the Whitley trust opted to move toward the alternative option of deed restrictions.

            Jim and Joanna initially contacted Greenbelt Land Trust in October of 2009 to discuss the possibility of a conservation easement protecting the Boone County property they had spent years stewarding, as Jim had just received the news that his cancer prognosis was grim. Unfortunately, Jim passed away shortly thereafter, and Joanna was diagnosed with cancer and passed away as well less than a year from their initial contact. We were not able to iron out the details of a conservation transaction before their sudden passing.

Instead, we worked with Ms. Pam Haverland, in her capacity as trustee, to work out the details of the project, and retained the services of nationally recognized experts in conservation easement law to ensure that the recorded document protected the property as securely as possible. Unfortunately, significant dispute arose among the involved parties, which led to lawsuits. It has now become apparent that a conservation easement meeting our requirements for stewardship would not be acceptable to the other involved parties, and would lead to further legal dispute. Rather than subject Jim and Joanna’s legacy to more years of anguish, we have withdrawn from negotiations.

            We regret that this matter has diverged from what we understood Jim and Joanna’s intentions to be, but we cannot jeopardize the integrity of our organization by accepting conservation easement language that does not meet reasonable standards for enforcement. Doing so would risk not only the Whitley property, but also every other property protected by Greenbelt Land Trust of Mid-Missouri, and we know that Jim and Joanna would never have wanted that.

            While we will no longer be directly involved with the disposition of the Whitley property, we hope that those who are will take seriously their stewardship of Jim and Joanna’s legacy.

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