Breslin Proposes Community Preservation Measure

Neil D. Breslin

March 30, 2006

In response to increasingly rapid urbanization and development, Senator Neil Breslin (D-Albany) has introduced legislation to help municipalities develop local strategies for community preservation.

According to a recent study, New York State loses an average of 174 acres each day to development. Community preservation objectives differ across the state, and include efforts to safeguard drinking water, provide parkland, conserve farmland, protect local habitats, and preserve scenic views and properties of historical significance.

If enacted, Breslin’s proposal would aid municipalities by authorizing them to raise funds for these purposes through a modest 2% real estate transfer fee approved locally by public referendum. Before holding the referendum, the city would be required to complete a local community preservation fund plan, pass local legislation, and create a fund for the deposit of revenues. The tax would only be applied to the portion of the sale price above the county’s median real estate price.

"My bill empowers localities by following in New York’s long-held tradition of respecting home rule," said Senator Breslin. "It puts the final decision in the hands of voters, and allows municipalities to find local solutions for local issues involving community preservation. And since this bill is tied to a county’s median cost of a home, it protects both affordable housing and first-time homebuyers."

Breslin’s bill has gained support from a range of constituencies, including environmental and conservation groups, advocates for farmland preservation, historic preservation interests, and town officials. It is also modeled after a bill that has passed the Assembly for two consecutive years, most recently last week, and on the successful program that has been established by five towns on Long Island.