For over two years, The Community Preservation Act, an important bill that gives towns and villages a tool for preserving open space and farmland, has died of neglect in one committee or another of the State Legislature. It's facing a similar, undeserved fate again this year.
A Community Preservation Fund (CPF) is a fund that is used to preserve open space and working farms, to protect drinking water, and to create community parks. Local governments create the fund by levying a real estate transfer fee of up to 2 percent on buyers (not sellers). The tax must be approved by voters in a community referendum. To protect working families from yet another tax burden, the fee would be applied only to that portion of the sale price that is over the median sale price of residential property within the county.
The benefits of this legislation are obvious. First, it is voluntary. Second, it lets communities control their own development, rather than depending on state or federal funds - and bureaucrats - to preserve the community's character. It also avoids the necessity for increases in property taxes or additional bonding propositions. Finally, a CPF allows towns to apply for matching funds from state, county, and federal governments to purchase areas of significant value.
The Community Preservation Act has already been passed by the State Assembly, with Assemblyman Tom DiNapoli and Senator Carl Marcellino among its co-sponsors. Now it is stuck in the Senate's Rule Committee, where it needs a push for a floor vote.
With the passing of this act, a community would be able to create a fund which could be used to preserve parks, nature preserves, open space, farmland, scenic areas, shorelines, wetlands, forests, wildlife refuges, public parks, and historic places.
This bill has wide support from local and statewide environmental and preservation groups, but perhaps the best testimony comes from the five towns on eastern Long Island that created their own preservation fund with a real estate transfer tax in 1998. They have devoted more than $300 million to preserving open space, and there has certainly been no decline in property appreciation because of the transfer fee.
With open space rapidly disappearing, and the continuing threat to our water supply, please urge your state representative to give your community the opportunity to raise funds with a CPF by passing this bill.
Lisa W. Ott
North Shore Land Alliance