(Albany, NY) – Proposed legislation in Albany would give New York towns a new and potentially powerful tool to preserve land and community character. Known as the Community Preservation Act (CPA), the law would authorize towns in New York State to adopt, after a local referendum, a real estate transfer fee of up to 2 percent for the purpose of establishing a community preservation fund.
First introduced in 2004, the bill enjoys bi-partisan support and majority sponsorship in both houses. The Governor recently announced his support for the policy, which is also supported by a growing coalition of over 50 conservation, farm and municipal organizations, including the New York Farm Bureau and the New York Association of Towns.
"As our state’s supply of open space continues to erode, communities across New York are exploring a wide range of creative ideas to conserve and enhance their natural resources," said Sen. Carl Marcellino, a prime sponsor of the bill. "The five towns at the east end of Long Island have created a successful program to develop a community preservation fund. The collected resources are used to protect drinking water, conserve parkland, safeguard habitats or help halt the endless sprawl into pristine, green locations. Our legislation will allow communities across New York to establish their own voter approved community preservation funds to create a local balance between development and preservation."
"New York’s open space and agricultural lands are being lost to development at an alarming rate," said lead Assembly sponsor Tom DiNapoli. "The five towns at the east end of Long Island have realized great success with the Peconic Bay Community Preservation Funds, and this bill would give other communities across New York State the same opportunity to establish a community preservation fund to be used for land conservation."
G. Jeffrey Haber, executive director of the New York Association of Towns, stated, "This legislation will provide to all towns the same local option employed successfully by the five towns of eastern Long Island. It would enable any town who so chooses to pass a local law, subject to mandatory referenda, establishing an alternative mechanism to fund important, identified planning objectives in their respective towns."
"Many New York towns are searching for new tools to manage sprawl, protect open space and preserve the historic character of our communities and neighborhoods," said Anne Reynolds of Environmental Advocates of New York. "The Community Preservation Act takes an idea that is working in one part of the state and creates the opportunity for towns across New York to be a part of this innovative approach. And the decision about whether or not to be a part of the program is entirely up to local voters."
This proposal is supported by a growing and diverse coalition, (see list), and it addresses the fact that the Environmental Protection Fund is oversubscribed for open space and farmland protection grant programs.
"Land protection is critical to the future of areas where urban sprawl has engulfed 90 percent of open space – increasing traffic and taxes and threatening drinking water. A community preservation program would empower local governments to buy the lands they need to create a healthy, sustainable place for today and for the future. Today, especially as the federal government considers severely limiting tax advantages to those who conserve their land, a community preservation fund may be our best and only hope," said Lisa Ott, executive director of the North Shore Land Alliance on Long Island.
"Poll after poll shows that New Yorkers want their drinking water supplies protected. This legislation, by making funds available for localities to protect watershed lands within their boundaries, will help safeguard the downstate drinking water supply, which relies on unfiltered water from Catskill, Delaware and Croton watershed reservoirs. Watershed areas around the state will benefit from this farsighted legislation, which gives localities the choice and the power to protect ecosystems in their communities," said Eric A. Goldstein, attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
"The loss, degradation, and fragmentation of open spaces, farmland, and habitats that occur from poorly planned development are a leading threat to many bird species and Audubon Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in New York," said David J. Miller, executive director of Audubon New York. "Many communities are exploring the different options available for conserving and protecting open space, but need increased resources to achieve their goals. Thanks to Assemblyman DiNapoli, Senator Marcellino, and Governor Pataki, the Community Preservation Act will provide cash-strapped communities with another useful tool to enhance open space preservation on the local level."
"The Community Preservation Act is good public policy. Skyrocketing real-estate prices in many regions over the last three years have enticed many property owners to cash in on vacant land they own," said Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club. "The value of undeveloped land in the Adirondack Park has doubled since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, enticing owners to sell."
COMMUNITY PRESERVATION ACT COALITION
1 in 9 Coalition
Adirondack Mountain Club
Agricultural Stewardship Association
American Farmland Trust
Audubon New York
Catskill Center for Conservation and Development
Citizens Campaign for the Environment
Citizens for Open Space of Goshen, New York
Columbia Land Trust
Concerned Residents of Southeast
Dutchess Land Conservancy
Environmental Advocates of New York
Friends of the Bay
Hudson Highlands Land Trust
Hudson River Sloop Clearwater
Lake George Land Conservancy
Land Trust Alliance
Natural Resources Defense Council
New York Farm Bureau
New York League of Conservation Voters
New York State Association of Towns
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference
North Shore Land Alliance
Northeast Organic Farmers Association of NY
Open Space Institute
Parks & Trails New York
Peconic Land Trust
Preservation League of NYS
Putnam Smart Growth Alliance
Putnam Valley Residents Coalition
Rondout Valley Grower's Association
Saint Peter Damian Fraternity, Secular Franciscan Order
Serpentine Art and Nature Commons, Inc.
Sierra Club – Atlantic Chapter
Southern Madison Heritage Trust
Sterling Forest Partnership,
The Fishkill Ridge Caretakers
The Nature Conservancy
The Ramapo River Committee
The Trust for Public Land
Town of Marbletown Environmental Conservation Commission
Utica/Central New York Citizens in Action
Vision Long Island
Wallkill Valley Land Trust, Inc.
Westchester Land Trust
Woodstock Land Conservancy