Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) Program

The Town of Dunn's PDR program is a voluntary farmland protection method that compensates landowners for inhibiting future development on their land. Through this program, the Town purchased the development rights to its first piece of property in April 1997 and continues to use this tool today in order to fulfill the four goals of the program:

(1) Preserve viable farm operations and farmland to maintain the rural character of the Town of Dunn, with agriculture as the major economic activity.


(2) Permanently preserve scenic vistas and environmentally significant areas (wetlands, lakes, streams, woodlots, etc.).


(3) Protect the town from the encroachment of neighboring cities and villages.


(4) Preserve "buffer zones" around significant environmental and/or agricultural areas. 



Land Trust Commission


The Town's Land Trust Commission oversees the PDR program. For meeting dates and agendas, or to see a list of commissioners, click here.



General Information


Benefits to Landowners and Residents


Frequently Asked Questions


Timeline of PDR Accomplishments 


Ordinance Creating the Rural Preservation Program and the Land Trust Commission



PDR Statistics (updated February 2013)


Currently the Town holds conservation easements on 27 properties, covering 2,996.07 acres and representing over 16% of the area of Dunn.


When including the conservation efforts of other organizations, about 31% of the Town's area is currently protected.


Conservation Organization

Number of Acres

Town of Dunn


Wisconsin DNR


Dane County


The Nature Conservancy


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Org.




Map of Protected Land

(Note: Easements are Private Property - No Public Access is Granted)



Please click here to see an enlarged map and a legend.



Applying for the PDR Program


The Town of Dunn regularly mails pre-application forms to all eligible residents - those that own 35 acres or more of contiguous land in the Town.  When the Town receives an application, staff will score the applicants' property using an objective ranking system (see Land Ranking and Selection Criteria below).  The scores determined by the ranking system help the Land Trust Commission determine properties for which to pursue a PDR transaction.


Steps in obtaining a conservation easement


Program Pre-Application


Land Ranking and Selection Criteria




The Town of Dunn purchased its first property for the PDR program on April 22, 1997 from the Sinaiko Family. It was the first Purchase of Development Rights transaction in the state of Wisconsin, as this plaque on the property now explains. The property held a former Native American campsite, and a portion of the property is now a Town Park.





In order to better leverage limited funds, the Town of Dunn seeks grant funding from sources such as the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the United States Department of Agriculture, and Dane County Parks.  Grants and donations have paid for 55.34% of the cost of purchasing development rights, saving tax payers $3,361,389. 


The Town of Dunn also partners with the Natural Heritage Land Trust (NHLT).  With every easement purchase, the Town pays the NHLT an endowment fee of roughly $8,000 to assist in enforcing and monitoring conservation easements.  Please click here to read the Memorandum of Agreement Between the Town of Dunn and Natural Heritage Land Trust, Inc.



Conservation Easements


A conservation easement is the legal contract which the Town uses to acquire development rights.  A unique consevation easement is crafted with each landowner to best protect the significant features of each individual property.


Guide to Conservation Easements: A Summary of the Legal Document


Sample Conservation Easement



Cost of Community Services Studies


Many studies show that agricultural and open space uses greatly reduce the tax burden on residents as compared to residential uses.  The following studies enumerate the relationship between revenues generated by various land uses and compares the tax burden that servicing each use places on the tax payers of a community.


Cost of Community Services Study, 1977


Cost of Community Services Study, 1994


Cost of Community Services Study for Three Dane Towns: Dunn, Perry, and Westport 1999

Cover - Page 24

Page 25 - Page 31



Tax Information


Listed below is tax information for conservation easements.  These materials are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.


Tax Consequences of Transferring Development Rights


Tax Incentives: Guide to the Federal Conservation Tax





   For more information concerning the Town of Dunn's Purchase of Development Rights

                                            Program, please contact:


              Erica Schmitz

Land Use Manager, Town of Dunn

        Phone: 608-838-1081


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