North Carolina Court of Appeals upholds enforcement of conservation easement

Roberts & Stevens attorneys F. Lachicotte (“Lach”) Zemp, Jr. and Ann-Patton Hornthal obtained a permanent injunction and punitive damages in a jury trial enforcing the terms of a Conservation Easement in Haywood County in 2008. The defendants appealed the jury’s verdict and the Zemp/Hornthal team defended the verdict on behalf of their clients on appeal. On August 17, 2010, the North Carolina Court of Appeals upheld the jury’s verdict in the case of Thomas L. Woltz, Trustee of the Crawford Creek Trust Agreement, et al. v. Donald S. Taylor, et al. The unanimous decision authored by Judge Barbara Jackson may be found here. Zemp and Hornthal represented the landowner, The Crawford Creek Trust, and the co-holder of the conservation easement, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) headquartered in Asheville. The protected property is a 488-acre tract of undeveloped land in Haywood County adjacent to the Shining Rock Wilderness and included Crawford Creek, a spring-fed creek that is designated an outstanding watershed by the State of North Carolina. The property has been owned by the same family since 1917 and was placed in a conservation easement with SAHC and the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund in 2000. The case involved a variety of claims and issues, including the enforceability of a Conservation Easement, adverse possession, prescriptive easement, easement by necessity, and trespass. The jury trial and verdict were featured in North Carolina Lawyers Weekly.