I came across a post on Craigslist that was selling x acres of land. It was titled as a Land Conservation.
What does that mean exactly as far as what can and cannot be built on it?

If it is possible to build a home on it, who pays for laying down the utility lines to a residence in a secluded rural area?

I am interested in Massachusetts in particular but is it the same for all states?

  • 5
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it pertains to the laws of the state of Massachusetts, not DIY home improvement.
    – iLikeDirt
    Apr 23, 2015 at 18:24
  • 1
    And to a specific piece of property.
    – keshlam
    Apr 23, 2015 at 21:34
  • As for utility lines, you may get a credit for 100 feet (300 feet and one pole with your more generous utilities or aggressive public utilities commissions) and after that you can expect to pay, through the nose; "Off-grid" is a financial win in less than 1/4 mile, usually.
    – Ecnerwal
    Apr 24, 2015 at 1:50

2 Answers 2


In Massachusetts, you cannot convert conservation land to commercial use unless you pay commercial taxes on it for FIVE years first.

So, for example, let's say it is 50 acres of land that would be worth $15 million on the open market, but its owner is willing to sell it to you for $1.5 million because it is conservation land. You want to build a house on the land (commercial activity). To do this, you must convert the land. To do this, you have to request a commercial assessment, then pay taxes on the assessed $15 million commercial value for FIVE years. At the end of that time the land will be converted and will no longer be conservation land and you can do what you want with it (assuming it is not a "wetland" or something, in which case the Federal government becomes important).

If you want utility service somewhere in the middle of nowhere, usually the developer (you) has to pay for it. That is what a "land developer" does.

  • Building a family house is considered a commercial activity? Do I have to pay the tax after the five years too? Apr 24, 2015 at 20:33
  • I would think that people buy land to profit from it somehow. What will make a person hold a Conservation Land for years? Is this land taxable? What are the pros and cons of owning one? Apr 24, 2015 at 20:49
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    @KingsInnerSoul Once the land is converted, it becomes regular land and is taxed like regular land. The 5-year-period is when you must be pay taxes like it is regular land and CANNOT develop it. Basically there is a 5-year waiting period. Apr 24, 2015 at 20:49
  • But can you "prepare" it? i.e. if its a wooded area - can you cut off the trees? not really build anything - more like clear it out? Apr 24, 2015 at 20:51
  • Does a Conservation Land with buildings on it have a name or code for it? Or need to ask the seller? Apr 24, 2015 at 20:54

Ask the town the land is located in, or ask the seller, or both. The short answer is "it depends", but in general assume that there will be severe limitations on what can be done with conservation land.

  • What is a conservation land really? If it is a piece of land that is used to conserve nature, why is it not owned by the town/county/state? Apr 23, 2015 at 20:47
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    There may be easements, covenants, or other restrictions upon the land's use, possibly for some specific number of years, possibly in exchange for reduced/waived taxes. For details ask them, not us.
    – keshlam
    Apr 23, 2015 at 21:34
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    @KingsInnerSoul It has no specific meaning. The specifics can be VERY broad or very narrow in scope. As Keshlam says, there's no point whatever in asking here - ask the seller EXACTLY what it means. It may mean you cannot build on it at all. The town/county/state often suck at conservation; a non-profit conservation organization may own the development rights (sold separately) as it's a cheaper way for them to conserve land than full outright purchase, and can be fine-tuned to permit farming if that's considered desirable while preventing houses made of ticky-tacky that look just the same.
    – Ecnerwal
    Apr 24, 2015 at 1:45

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