Land Trust Preserves Kokosing
The Philander Chase Corp. purchased land, in part, to prevent drilling.
Published: Thursday, October 25, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 01:11
Following almost two years of negotiations, the Philander Chase Corporation (PCC), the College’s nonprofit land trust, purchased more than 50 acres of land from the Laymon family, a local Gambier family, in early August. The property — located across from State Route 229 and adjacent to a newly-drilled gas well — was purchased completely through donations. “These are alumni and parents who believe in protecting the land around us, which is amazing,” Managing Director of the PCC Lisa Schott ’80 said.
This property has been a top priority for the PCC since the Corporation was first created in 2000. “[The PCC] had hoped to protect this because it is the one property that runs alongside the College,” Schott said. “It’s what you see from Sunset Point. And it’s a beautiful farm.”
For the PCC, the aesthetic value the farm brings to Kenyon warranted preservation. “At the base of the Hill, [developers] were going to have trailers. Which is what could have happened at the Laymon [property] as well,” Schott said. “That view is so beautiful right now. Say you had a property owner who moved in and didn’t take care of the land, as simple as that, and let it get overrun and not looking nice. We’d be sad about that.”
Likewise, because development in Ohio grows at a rate of between 7 and 9 acres an hour, according to Schott, the PCC also hoped to preserve the agricultural sense of the property. “Land can change fast,” Schott said. “Back when I was a student in the ’70s, it was all rural. There wasn’t a McDonald’s then. Things have changed in a relatively short period of time, drastically.”
The PCC paid $371,613 for the property, though it was valued at $95,330, according to the Knox County auditor’s website. “Did we pay more than what the appraised value is? Yes,” Schott said. “Most landowners aren’t right next to the College. So there was a premium. And that was what we spent. … There are so many variables of what the value of that land is.”
Negotiations for the property were intense, according to Schott, partly due to the added element of drilling wells. “That got very complicated because we really wanted to minimize the drilling. They could have drilled several wells on that property. Not just one well, but several,” she said. “It was ridiculous how far apart we were when we started. It took off-and-on-again conversations over two years to get all the details worked out. We just want to find that overlap where we can finally agree upon what works for both parties.”
Though the PCC initially discussed only a conservation easement — a land-preservation agreement that lasts in perpetuity — the Corporation eventually decided purchasing the property was the best option. “We usually don’t buy the property. That’s the last thing we want to do because it’s expensive,” Schott said. “But … there’s no better, full protection than owning the property. That’s your best protection.”
Even so, the land itself is also “protected” from the College. “It also has protective easements on it,” Schott said. “The College can’t even mess with this. So in a hundred years from now, if they think, ‘Oh, we would like to put some trailers and things,’ the conservation easement won’t let them do that. Kenyon College owns the land, but Philander Chase holds the conservation easement.”
As an alumna, Schott also has a personal connection to the land. “Being at Kenyon, I loved the academics, but I loved being here. This area to me was so important,” she said. “If there was one wish I had for students, [it is] that they would spend some time down at the Kokosing. That is really a gem to have literally at the bottom of our hill. It was a top-priority choice because it was in the view corridor of the College. But to me, almost of equal importance, it runs along the river. And in terms of what will matter to me and my life, this will be one of the biggest things.”