by Tom Oder
One owner’s fight to preserve her family “home”
Ann Hooper and her husband, David Davidson, still get calls from developers asking them to sell their land that sits a stone’s throw outside Atlanta’s western limits. There was never a chance they would say yes. But, now, they don’t even bother to say “When Hell freezes over!” as David told one irritating caller. Since the day they signed their conservation easement in February 2003, they have had the satisfaction of knowing that 25.7 forested acres of their land are permanently protected from development. It wasn’t just flyovers and calls from developers that brought them to that moment. They also fended off several direct threats to their property, including a lawsuit for access to landlocked acreage. “They wanted to take my home!” says Ann.
What none of them understood, she explains, is that “when I say ‘home,’ I don’t just mean the house you live in. I mean the land we grew up on. We had a farm and chickens and cows and pigs. We used to live in a little farmhouse across the way. Eventually Pappy tore that down and built the house we live in now.”
“The only thing I want ever on this property are me and my dogs. I want it to stay like it is for perpetuity.”
Ann, David, and her sister, Kay, who lived on 11 adjacent acres at the time, decided to mount a private campaign to find a permanent solution to save the land their parents bought in 1942. It was Kay who struck gold. “Kay found the Chattowah Open Land Trust [now the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust]. We called them and met with them immediately,” said Ann. “I had never heard of a conservation easement!”
Ann remembers Land Trust representatives being very accommodating, asking her if she might want to build houses for relatives at some future point on any portion of the easement land, an upland forest containing oak, poplar, sweet and black gum, hickory, loblolly, and beech. Ann knew, however, that Kay and other family members didn’t have the same attachment to the land that she did. She told them, “The only thing I want ever on this property are me and my dogs. I want it to stay like it is for perpetuity.” It is the sole reason, she says, that she placed her property under easement. “I didn’t know anything about the tax benefits. I didn’t want to do anything with it. I just wanted it left there.”