Frequently Asked Questions
- Q: Who owns Witham Oaks and what are they asking for it?
A: US Bank owns the property due to a foreclosure and is asking $3 million for the property. We have made an offer,
although at this point we are not close to the bank's asking price. (top)
- Q: What will the Friends of Witham Oaks do with the raised funds, should they be unable to purchase the property?
A: From the very beginning of the idea of purchasing Witham Oaks our intention was to refund the donations if we are unable to purchase the
property. We had hoped that some other organization, such as Greenbelt Land Trust (GLT), could hold the money in an escrow account for us. But
because the GLT and most other organizations are not set up to do that we had to create our own non-profit corporation. We are bound by our by-laws,
which state that we will return the donations if we are unable to purchase the property. Please note that up to 3% of each donation made online
through PayPal will be non-refundable, due to PayPal's processing fees. We're sorry for the inconvenience. Any interest accrued will be donated
to Corvallis Park and Recreation for open space. Our treasurer is sending both receipts and a thank you letter stating the amount of the donations
so that she will have at least two copies of each donation. (top)
- Q: You say you'll return contributions if you don't succeed in buying the land. How does that affect my charitable contribution deduction on my tax return?
A. Unfortunately this is somewhat complicated and there is no cut and dry answer. From the information we have gathered (see below) we believe that the IRS considers the donation to be made only when we purchase the land and there is no longer any chance we'll return the funds. The contribution should be included in the deductions for the year of purchase, regardless of when you wrote the check. So if you made a contribution in 2009, wait until later to include that amount in your charitable deductions. And if we have to return the money, you won't need to do anything. Contributions for operating expenses are deductible in the year in which they are made.
The above is our best judgment, but we are not professional legal or financial advisers. It is highly recommended that you consult your tax adviser, lawyer or accountant to determine the best course of action for you regarding your 2009 donation to Friends of Witham Oaks. (top)
- Additional Information:
For more information see IRS Publication 526 page 131, 2 which says that you cannot claim a deduction for a contribution as long as it may be returned to you, and IRS Publication 17, pp 89-903 which says that if you claim a deduction, you must declare it as income if it is later returned to you.
1IRS Publication 526, page 13 says: "Conditional gift. If your contribution is a conditional gift that depends on a future act or event that may not take place, you cannot take a deduction. But if there is only a negligible chance that the act or event will not take place, you can take a deduction. ... If your contribution would be undone by a later act or event, you cannot take a deduction. But if there is only a negligible chance the (undoing) act or event will take place, you can take a deduction."
2 A trusted financial advisor interprets IRS Publication 526, page 13 to mean that the contribution is actually counted as being in the year in which the action (in our case buying Witham Oaks) takes place.
3IRS Publication 17, pp 89-90 does contain provisions for what to do if you have a charitable contribution returned to you after you have claimed it as a deduction. You must report the returned contribution as income. (top)
- Q: Is Trust for Public Land involved?
A: Trust for Public Land supports FOWO's effort to purchase the Witham Oaks property. Once we have raised the funds, they have committed to stepping in to help us negotiate with the bank if the property is not sold at auction (see above). (top)
- Q: What is the Greenbelt Land Trust's position on the Witham Oaks property?
A: The Greenbelt Land Trust (GLT) visited the Witham Oaks property and rated it according to their guidelines. The GLT Lands Committee report concluded: "The property rates quite high according to most of GLT's scenic, ecological, recreation and education criteria, but falls short in terms of some of the logistics of acquisition". This is primarily due to the high cost and short time frame. The Board voted to publicly support the efforts of FOWO to purchase the property. (See the GLT's full comments here). (top)
- Q: What is OSU's position on the Witham Oaks property?
A: As with all land acquisitions in Corvallis, OSU maintains a neutral position. (top)
- Q: Have you talked with the Nature Conservancy?
A: Yes. They evaluated the property and determined that the "location of the property and the short time frame do not make it possible for the Conservancy to be involved in the acquisition." (top)
- Q: How does the purchase of Witham Oaks affect the extension of Circle Blvd?
A: It doesn't; the city owns a right of way for Circle Blvd. For more detailed information, contact email@example.com. (top)
- Q: Friends of Witham Oaks' goal is to donate the land to the city. Has the city indicated any willingness to accept the donation?
A: The city has made no commitment either way. They have indicated continued interest in accepting the northern part of the property adjacent to Witham Hill Natural Area, as was planned by the developer. (top)
- Q: Although FOWO's goal is to donate the property to the city, do you have a contingency plan should the city decline to accept it?
A: FOWO will seek a non-profit that would be willing to accept the Witham Oaks property with the stipulation that it will be maintained as publicly accessible open space. FOWO is committed to preserving the property for the enjoyment of generations to come. (top)
- Q: I've heard that US Bank has entered into an agreement with a developer. What information does FOWO have about that?
A: Friends of Witham Oaks is currently in a holding pattern. Our board has met with Campus Crest Development, a nation-wide company that builds and maintains student housing, to determine their intentions for the property. They are currently in "due diligence" and have not yet closed on the property. The city requires any development on the property to include an extension of Circle Boulevard to connect to Harrison Boulevard. Additionally, a zoning change will be necessary for this development to take place, which according to the Land Development Code, would only be approved if three criteria were met: 1. There is demonstrated public need for the change 2. The advantages to the community resulting from the change outweigh the disadvantages 3. The change proposed is a desirable means of meeting the public need. (top)
- Q: If US Bank is negotiating with a developer, what is Friends of Witham Oaks currently doing, and what is going to happen to my donation?
A: The Friends of Witham Oaks mission has not changed. In our discussions with Campus Crest Development we have stressed that we support the maintenance of OSU agricultural lands, the wetlands, and open space. We are currently in a holding pattern. The property has not yet changed hands, so we are waiting to find out how the agreement with the developer progresses before we take further action. Tax-deductible donations to the property fund are being held in the account we set up for them until the fate of the property is fully determined. Non-tax-deductible donations to operating expenses are still being used for general Friends of Witham Oaks business. (top)