Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Conservation Easement Lawsuit in Caroline County

An overhead photograph of Moss Neck Manor

Moss Neck Manor is a historic home in Caroline County, Virginia. 

Stonewall Jackson maintained his headquarters there during the winter of 1862-1863. Jackson famously refused to sleep inside, protesting that the manor house was "too luxurious for a soldier, who should sleep in a tent."


150 years later, the Manor is in the news again.   


Rusty Dennen at the Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star reports (here) about a lawsuit stemming from a proposed conservation easement on the Moss Neck property.

According to Dennen, Moss Neck Manor Plantation Inc., the owner of some 1,200 acres around the manor, filed suit in Caroline County Circuit Court this March.

The defendants are the Virginia Outdoors Foundation and The Conservation Fund.


I have not read the complaint (sadly, the majority of circuit court civil filings in Virginia are not available online), but my understanding from the Star is that Moss Neck Inc. alleges that it relied on the VOF and The Conservation Fund in structuring a sale of the property based on an agreement to donate a conservation easement to the VOF. 

Moss Neck Inc. understood that the easement would contain a particular set of terms. 

The claim states that one or the other of the defendants required more stringent terms just prior to closing, causing the transaction to fall through. Moss Neck Inc. alleges fraud, conspiracy and breach of contract by the two defendants.

Dennen reports that the Virginia Attorney General's Office will defend the VOF on grounds of sovereign immunity (the VOF is a state agency) and will also argue that the VOF was not a party to any contract. The Conservation Fund will also argue that the claim is invalid.

I will definitely be curious to track this litigation.

This is a painting of Stonewall Jackson at Moss Neck Manor by artist Mort Kunstler.

And what about you?  Are you a "tent person" like General Jackson, or are you ok with sleeping in a manor house?