Getting Started

Starting a community land trust?

You will need community members, a board of trustees, bylaws,
an array of legal documents, a lawyer and some land

The work of a community land trust is a mix of business administration and people management. Your organization needs to be good at both. There are many documents that govern legal and financial processes. We can help you by providing templates and/or working models.

The process of land ownership requires engaging attorneys, and possibly getting credit and working with banks. We can help you connect with organizations that understand the community land trust practice.

Community land trust members want to stay in touch, especially leaseholders. We can help you with website and email communications, meeting preparations, and member database management. Our goal is to make sure your community land trust is successful.

A community land trust is a nonprofit, democratically structured membership organization. The members elect the board of trustees and set the priorities for the organization. Each member household pays an annual membership fee to signify their commitment. Member meetings are held at least annually.

The board of trustees, which is responsible for stewarding the community’s assets, oversees the purchase and sale of buildings and other improvements on the land, manages land use plans, and ensures legal compliance. Land leases specify land rent, the main source of income for operating the organization. Leaseholders make payments for land rent and taxes, and sometimes insurance and other services like snow plowing. Collecting and tracking leaseholder payments, paying bills and taxes, and keeping detailed financial records is an important responsibility of the organization.

The land lease is for 98 years. It is inheritable and it is recorded at the local Registry of Deeds. The terms of the land lease can be used to implement community goals by placing requirements and restrictions on use of the land. A farm lease may specify ecological farming practices. A home site lease may specify that the occupants be fulltime residents of the community or that they have a particular skill, such as farming. A building lease may specify that the business owner must be a full-time resident of the community or that the business employs local people.

A community land trust is a people-powered organization. It all starts with a group of citizen activists seeking to ensure permanent access to their community’s strategic land assets. Please contact us for further information. We look forward to hearing from you.

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