Land acquisition is the process of buying a piece of land. The motivation behind land acquisition can be varied; perhaps as an alternative investment to shares, as the starting point for a self-build project, to develop at a later date, and so on. As with other forms of acquisition, the caveat emptor rule applies which makes it incumbent on the buyer to undertake thorough research to identify any potential risks or problems.

The cost of a plot of land depends on factors such as; the desire of the vendor to sell, location, size, form, accessibility, proximity to infrastructure and transport links, the general state of the property market, whether it has or is likely to receive planning permission and so on. The term ‘existing use value’ refers to what land is worth in its current form, whereas ‘hope value’ refers to what it is worth based on the expectation of getting permission for development. Generally, land that has planning permission for development has a higher value than land that does not.

Land acquisition as a tool for protecting sensitive areas involves obtaining buy-in from the community’s leadership and from the property owner. Implementing land acquisition programs requires political will, community support, and funding. For this reason, land acquisition can be one of the more difficult tools to implement.

Some of the more successful land acquisition programs in the country have addressed all three of these critical components. First, they are well-supported by the local governing body and the community, generally because of a high-priority community goal (open space preservation, hazard mitigation, protecting cultural resources, scenic lands, etc.). This often leads to the establishment of a funding mechanism for acquiring the sensitive lands that advance community goals. Some funding tools that have been implemented include direct line-item appropriations, taxes or fees such as stormwater utility fees, tax incentives, and bonds. In other instances communities may apply for grant funding (for example, Great Outdoors Colorado or FEMA Hazard Mitigation Assistance funding) and/or work in partnership with private or non-profit organizations to offset the full costs of property acquisition.

Advantages of land acquisition :

  • Complementing policies and strategies found in a community’s comprehensive plan or other plans associated with future land use, open space preservation, hazard mitigation, floodplain management, community wildfire protection planning, parks and recreation, and environmental protection.
  • Promoting natural resource protection as a hazard mitigation technique.
  • Providing locations for citizens to recreate.
  • Protecting environmentally sensitive areas.
  • Achieving the above objectives through a permanent solution versus relying on land development policies or regulations which may be changed over time.
  • Preventing property damage and loss of life, thereby reducing public and private resources expended on disaster recovery.
  • Preserving habitat for threatened species.
  • Removing land from development pressure that might otherwise be highly desirable to developers.
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