Conservation easements can be burden on heirs

Published 7:10pm Tuesday, November 26, 2013

To the editor:
Hello, my name is Charles Wishon and I’m from Newton. N.C.
I was the friend and the executor of Robert L. Shuford II. Bob’s family and my family have been friends since 1884. Bob passed away Aug. 1, 2011. On that day, my life changed and my journey began.
I would like to share three of my experiences with you.
First, I was shocked that someone would steal from Bob.
The first time they broke in his barn and stole copper piping. The second and their time, someone stole the copper wiring and more copper piping from his home place. It makes your heart heavy to think people will steal from a dead man.
Now for my second experience, Bob left me his beloved 83-acre Weaverbarton Dairy Farm on Shuford Rd. Along with his farm came a small stack of papers known as conservation easements.
Bob and the Pacolet Area Conservancy wrote easements on the farm. I understand the need to protect land, but 55 acres of this farm is so heavily restricted that I honestly don’t know what I can do with it. I can drive by it, I can walk on it and I can pay taxes on it.
I tried selling it to neighboring landowners, but when you show them the easements they run the other way.
I feel the easements are more for the easement holder and not for future property owners. I guess my advice to anyone considering conservation easements is to think about future heirs – children and grandchildren – because is the lure of a small tax break worth having an organization telling you and your heirs what they can and can’t do with your land in perpetuity?
My third experience, as executor, I am responsible for paying Bob’s debts. The first thing I did was to go to Polk County Tax Collector Office and introduce myself. I told them I would be paying Mr. Shuford’s taxes.
On Feb. 24, 2012, I returned to that office and wrote a check for $43,524.15 and paid Bob’s taxes. You see Mr. Shuford never paid his taxes for six years on that farm on Shuford Rd. Now, fast forward to 2012, I own that farm and I owe taxes on it. On Jan. 8, 2013 I became delinquent on my taxes.
This spring I spoke with the delinquent tax collector, and told her I had Mr. Shuford’s farm for sale and I would pay the taxes soon. On April 24, 2013 Campbell mailed me a certified letter telling me to pay $500 a month even though I never agreed to that amount.
Now, the collector is garnishing my wages.
In June I was five months delinquent on my taxes. Can someone tell me how Mr. Shuford did not pay taxes for six years but I am being hounded after only five months? Where were all of the delinquent tax collectors for those six years?
You know, I am more than delinquent case file number 2924.
Since Mr. Shuford’s death (28 months ago), I have made over 50 trips to Columbus to handle his estate. From my home in Newton, N.C. it is a three-hour trip round trip.
Things aren’t all bad… I’ve met a few very nice and helpful people. I am a good person. I am an honest person, a hard worker, and I will pay my taxes.
I wanted to tell my story to someone but I decided I would tell it to everyone.
– Charles Wishon,
Newton. N.C.

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