Supreme Court of Virginia
613 S.E.2d 442 (2005)
In the 1970s, the Historic Green Springs, Inc. (HGSI) was organized to preserve a local historical area. HGSI obtained easements for land conservation and historic preservation. To that end, in 1973, the Atkins family granted an easement to HGSI over several acres of the Atkinses’ Eastern View Farm, which included a manor house. The deed to HGSI conveyed an easement in gross in perpetuity. The deed also said that the property should be maintained and preserved in its present state, and the property could not be altered without the grantee’s prior written approval. In 1978, HGSI conveyed its entire portfolio of easements to the United States (plaintiff). All the original easement grantors acknowledged their agreement to the transfer by signing the deed. The National Park Service (NPS) now administers the easements. In 2002, Peter Blackman (defendant) purchased Eastern View Farm. Blackman submitted several sets of renovation plans for the farm’s manor house to the NPS for review. The NPS repeatedly denied Blackman’s plans. Instead of waiting for NPS approval, Blackman proceeded with his renovations. The United States sued, and the federal district court issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting Blackman from continuing renovation without written approval from the NPS. The district court then certified a question of law to the Virginia courts regarding whether, in 1973, Virginia law allowed a deed granting a negative easement in gross to a third party for land conservation and historic preservation. Blackman argued that a negative easement in gross for land conservation and historic preservation was not valid until 1988, when the Virginia Conservation Easement Act (VCEA), Code §§10.1-1009 through 10.1-1016, was enacted.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Koontz, J.)
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