Tag Archive | "community preservation fund"

Hampton Bays Man Donates Land, Home to Southampton Town & the Peconic Baykeeper

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Wehrmann Pond aerial

By Victoria Faconti

A Hampton Bays man’s wish is coming true in the wake of his death. It was a dream of Harry B. Wehrmann to have his Hampton Bays property — a place he always called “tranquil” — become a public park celebrating the nature he enjoyed until his passing on April 9 at the age of 73.

Wehrmann, a native of Latvia, spent his summers in Southampton on Wehrmann pond with his adopted parents and brother. After retirement in 1992, Wehrmann moved to the family home and lived on the 12-acre property until his death last month.

On May 8, under the Community Preservation Fund (CPF), Wehrmann’s estate accepted Southampton Town Board’s offer to purchase the Wehrmann Pond.

The purchase price was not available as of press time as the deal has yet to officially close.

“The vision was to establish a town park around Wehrmann Pond as public land and establish a headquarters for the Peconic Baykeeper, Inc. – a philanthropic organization,” said Carolyn Zenk, an environmental attorney and former Southampton Town Councilwoman who helped Wehrmann with this deal. “Harry and I thought this approach would yield the greatest benefits for the public.”

The property is adjacent to acres of land Southampton Town already owns, according to Zenk.

“Harry intended that the park be used for passive recreation uses. He did not want noisy off-road vehicles or jet skis in the area. ‘Tranquility’ is the name he would tell me. ‘Tranquility’ is the goal’,” said Zenk.

Wehrmann had a vision for his land including the provision that his house must be used in a philanthropic way, otherwise it would be turned over to Southampton Town. Through Wehrmann’s will, his former home will become the headquarters for the Peconic Baykeeper, Inc., the not-for-profit organization led by baykeeper Kevin McAllister which devotes itself to keeping local bays clean and safe for fishing, swimming and recreation.

After watching the work of the baykeeper, Wehrmann wanted to help the organization in a meaningful way, said McAllister who estimates the process could take six to nine months before his office makes the official move to the property.

“This is going to benefit us immensely as the space is much larger and we will be able to invite the community out,” said McAllister.

“Mr. Wehrmann wanted to find an organization which was dedicated to fighting for protection of the area’s bays,” said Zenk. “Harry also wanted to help preserve the beauty and bounty of the bays that he loved so well. He found that organization in the Peconic Baykeeper.”

Wehrmann’s 12-acre property is mostly wooded, according to Zenk, and is located in the Red Creek Ridge area of Hampton Bays, off Upper Red Creek Road and across from Red Creek Pond — an open bay.

Zenk originally approached Southampton Town Board to purchase the entire property minus Harry Wehrmann’s house, which would eventually be given to the Baykeeper. However, the town board directed Wehrmann to instead subdivide the property into two lots. The first 10-acre lot containing Wehrmann Pond is what is being purchased by the town, with the adjacent parcel donated to the Peconic Baykeeper.

According to Zenk, there are still a number of approvals needed before Wehrmann’s dream will actually become a reality.

“While we have accepted the town’s offer to purchase Wehrmann Pond, closing documents must be signed, a public hearing must be held and the town board must give a final approval,” she said.

The Southampton Town Planning Board must also allow a change of use on the property from residential to philanthropic before the Peconic Baykeeper can truly call the Wehrmann house its new headquarters.

“We have every confidence that town officials will see Harry Wehrmann’s dying wishes come true and that they will help establish a beautiful park for town residents and a memorial to the entire Wehrmann family for all time,” said Zenk. “We hope that other residents will follow Mr. Wehrmann’s example and consider donating land or houses worthy of not-for-profit organizations, such as the Group for the East End, The Nature Conservancy, The Peconic Land Trust, and the Peconic Baykeeper, Inc. These not-for-profit organizations have worked long and hard to preserve the quality of our lives; they deserve our support.”

Thiele & LaValle Create CPF Advisory Opinions Bureau

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Since its inception in 1998, the Peconic Bay Community Preservation Fund has raised approximately $757 million, which the five East End towns have used to preserve open space, farmland, historic buildings and places as well as recreational fields. During its tenure as a resource for preservation, the bounds of the CPF have been questioned for concepts like a 2008 proposal between East Hampton, Southampton and Sag Harbor to use CPF funds to preserve Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, which was ultimately deemed a purchase that went beyond the intentions of the law.

The revenue for the fund is derived from a two-percent real estate transfer tax. It expires on December 31, 2030.

Last week, the architects of the CPF, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and New York State Senator Ken LaValle, announced they have created a Peconic Bay Regional Community Preservation Fund Advisory Opinions Bureau in an effort to have a specific group ensure the effective and consistent administration of the fund.

The 11-member bureau will also provide legal opinions and interpretations regarding any questions that are raised about how the five East End towns — East Hampton, Sag Harbor, Southampton, Shelter Island and Riverhead — are expending their CPF monies.

A representative from each of the five towns, appointed by the town supervisor, will serve on the board as will a representative from each of the East End villages. Thiele and LaValle will also appoint five members of the public at large.

“This Advisory Bureau will institute oversight measures to help protect the integrity of the Community Preservation Fund,” said Thiele. “The Peconic Bay Region taxpayers and communities deserve to know that the Fund is being implemented appropriately and consistently throughout the region.”

“Transparency and accountability to taxpayers is essential to the fund’s continued success,” said Senator LaValle.

Budget Discussion Focuses on CPF Bond

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By Claire Walla

The first regularly scheduled public hearing on Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst’s tentative 2012 budget focused largely on the Community Preservation Fund (CPF).

Bob Anrig, chairman of the CPF advisory board, began discussions by firmly urging the board to approve a $125 million bond offering for the department.

“What I care about is the long-term interest of the town,” he said last Friday, October 28 at a special board meeting on the budget. “I believe that going forward this [bond offering] is good, smart government. The land is available, prices are the best they’ve been in a long time and the financing costs are at all-time lows.”

The benefit to the bond, Anrig further explained, would be to secure the money to preserve the lands now, at a relatively low interest rate, before property values in the town rise.

“We have been stalling on this,” Anrig continued. “My fear is that it’s become a political hot potato and we need to move forward on this now.”

Throne-Holst and Councilwoman Bridget Fleming are in support of the bond measure, while the board’s conservative majority members — Chris Nuzzi, Nancy Graboski and Jim Malone — expressed some concern with taking on more debt. If, for whatever reason, the CPF does not have enough money to continue paying back the bond, Nuzzi said his worry was that then the burden would fall to Southampton Town taxpayers.

Fleming, however, noted that the bond measure would take fluctuating costs into account. It’s a four-year pay-back plan that she insisted the town would be able to extricate itself from, should the town foresee the possibility of CPF revenues not remaining as strong as they are currently predicted to be.

Throne-Holst pointed out that even in the midst of the financial crisis, “CPF has remained robust.”

She doesn’t expect the fund to decrease so dramatically that it would be unable to pay for the bond, but if it should, she added, “The fact of the matter is that should it ever get to that dooms day scenario, we could then go to the state and say we may need to reverse one of these purchases. But the likelihood of that is so remote.”

Jim Malone echoed Nuzzi’s sentiments by reminding the board that in 2007 the fund was lower than it had been in years past.

“We saw an impact,” he stated. “The fund does move.”

Nuzzi also pointed out that without the additional bond, the CPF would still have roughly $20 million worth of funds to dedicate to the purchase of open space.

“I support the bond, and I think it’s completely right that it’s become a political hot potato,” Fleming said, harking back to Anrig’s previous statement. “I feel good that this is good, strong money management. It’s different than just taking on debt.”

Fleming urged Anrig — himself a banker and a local real estate agent — to further explain why the CPF advisory board is so adamant that the $125 bond be issued as soon as possible.

“The bond proposal has been written in extremely prudent terms,” said Anrig. “ We tried to ensure that even after all costs of the fund are considered that we have a debt service coverage ratio of projected revenues that’s at least one-and-a-half or one for the bond.”

“The opinion of the underwriters was that that was an extremely conservative set of assumptions and a conservative debt service coverage ratio,” he continued.

Anrig added that this bond would be completely funded by CPF revenues, so it would have no affect on the Southampton Town tax rate.

During the public portion of meeting, Linda Kabot, the former Southampton Town supervisor who is running a reelection campaign as a write-in candidate against Throne-Holst, used her time at the podium to weigh-in on the issue.

“I applaud [the fact] that the majority of you appear to be more fiscally conservative to scale that [bond proposal] back to address the risk,” she said.  “You’re talking about doubling our debt load. I do think that needs to be vetted further.”

Southampton Supervisor Candidates Debate CPF Future

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As a write-in candidate for Southampton Town Supervisor, former Republican Supervisor Linda Kabot has not had a formal debate against incumbent Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst on the issues facing Southampton Town.

But at this week’s Bridgehampton Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting, the two clashed, while basically remaining on the same page, over the town’s desire to borrow over $100 million against the Community Preservation Fund (CPF). The money would be borrowed over the course of the next four years in order to purchase around 2,000 acres in Southampton Town.

Following a 2012 budget presentation on Monday night by Throne-Holst, who is the Democratic, Working Families and Independence Party candidate in the November 8 election for supervisor, Kabot approached the board with her pitch for candidacy in the uncontested race. Kabot, with retiring Southampton Town Councilwoman Nancy Grabowski seated at her side, said she was running in an effort to give town residents a choice in who should lead the town board through 2014.

Kabot began by stating it was under her lead, not Throne-Holst, that the town began getting its finances together through the aid of the town comptroller Tamara Wright.

“Immediately, in 2008, I set a course of financial management to move us through the turmoil,” she said.

Kabot questioned that the full Democratic Party slate, which includes Throne-Holst, Councilwoman Bridget Fleming and candidate Brad Bender, has taken credit in its advertising for restoring the town’s bond rating. Kabot said it was a feat attained in February 2010, before Fleming was elected in a special March 2010 race.

“We transitioned to a new town supervisor who worked diligently for the town, and I will not take that away from her,” said Kabot.

Kabot said the town should continue to cut spending, in particular because the economy nationwide is still sagging and the tax base is not growing. She added residents she has spoken to are also concerned about code enforcement and protecting property values. Taking care of the highway department roads and ensuring the preservation of the town’s leaf program is also important, said Kabot.

“The local economy is in a recession still and we need to do more for our local businesses to encourage them to foster and grow,” said Kabot, calling for a more streamlined regulatory process for minor changes on a property or in a business.

However, it was when Kabot tackled the CPF that a debate erupted between she and Throne-Holst.

Kabot charged that Throne-Holst was proposing a $125 million bond act that would borrow against CPF to purchase properties in the town immediately.

“I do agree we need to extend our purchasing power, but not to the tune of $125 million,” said Kabot.

She said if the CPF failed to perform as hoped, the town may have to dip into its general fund to cover such an expense. Kabot advocated looking towards a $50 million bond instead.

“The CPF isn’t merely there to willy-nilly buy open space,” said Throne-Holst. “It is here to protect our greatest economic engine, the viability of our environment.”

Throne-Holst said the $125 million proposal was “not random,” but a figure conceived by the town’s Community Preservation Fund committee, a bi-partisan group, that has targeted 2,000 acres for preservation in Southampton Town. The supervisor called the properties “critical,” much of it active farmland and watershed properties that if developed could negatively impact the town.

Throne-Holst noted many of the committee members are fiscal conservatives, but that the whole group supports this idea, particularly when facing the reality that real estate prices are now at an all time low and the town could save millions purchasing property now, rather than in 10 years.

She added the concept does not involve seeking a $125 million bond, as Kabot suggested.

“It would be done over a four-year period, which means we can opt out at any time should anything dramatic happen to the economy,” said Throne-Holst, who added that the town could look to borrow as little as $30 million in the first year of the program.

Bridgehampton CAC resident Janice Delano said that from a financial perspective, Throne-Holst’s plan made sense given the current real estate market.

However, chairman Fred Cammann said he was wary of leveraging anything given the financial nightmare that emerged in 2007 and 2008 because financial institutions were doing just that.

Water Mill CAC Co-Chairman Steve Abramson countered that even the CPF architect, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. has advocated in favor of borrowing against the CPF, as has former Governor George Pataki.

“We know if we don’t spend it now to buy a certain amount of real estate in a few years we will spend the same money for less property,” said Abramson.

Delano added it wasn’t very long ago that she remembered the same people bristling at the concept at Monday night’s meeting supporting a similar idea just a few years back.

“In 2008, the world changed,” said Cammann.

Ultimately, Throne-Holst said, Kabot proposing a $50 million bond is more aggressive than the $30 million she hopes to bond for in the first year of what she sees as a long-term plan for CPF.

“This does not have any party affiliation tied to it,” she said. “This is a commitment to preserving the character and economic engine of our town, which is our environment. And that, in fact, is preserving property values in Southampton.”

Success of Preservation

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By Karl Grossman

Is it the right time, what with the economy weak, to push on with open space and farmland preservation in Suffolk County? In Southampton Town, an advisory committee recently recommended the town spend $125 million over the next four years to save open space and farmland. The money would come from the Community Preservation Fund in dollars already obtained or expected through its two percent transfer tax on the sale of most real estate.

“Our community character is the basis of our economy,” commented Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst in endorsing the plan. Southampton is putting together a list of areas “we never want to see developed, our farmlands, open spaces, important watersheds.”

“Southampton gets it!” says Richard Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society. Yes, the economy is weak but, as a result, “land prices have never been better. There are more willing sellers than ever before. And Southampton Town has a Community Preservation Fund that continues to generate substantial sums of money without burdening taxpayers.”

Local governments on eastern Long Island have been taking this view. And most Long Islanders consider it correct. Mr. Amper cites an opinion survey of Long Islanders which found that eight out of 10 think that despite the economic downturn, preservation should be maintained — or increased.

They don’t believe the claim of developers that more development is needed. As Mr. Amper states, “When land gets developed there comes with that more taxes for schools, roads, police protection and on and on. When you buy open space you protect it forever, otherwise you’re stuck paying for all the additional government services forever.”

The preservation work of local governments contrasts with the performance of other levels of government. The federal government’s contribution to land preservation is now “an occasional grant,” says Mr. Amper. “The state is pathetic,” he declares. And he is unhappy with the efforts of the administration of Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy. (Mr. Levy contests this.)

As to the various towns, Mr. Amper says Shelter Island “has continued to spend selectively and wisely and has a greater percentage of its land protected than any other Long Island town.” Riverhead “has advanced the purposes of the Community Preservation Fund better than any other town, borrowing against anticipated revenue to the maximum extent possible.” Southold “has supplemented its Community Preservation Fund money with its own bond issues.”

“East Hampton has bought a lot of land and they’re approaching the end game….They did so well so early that they are approaching mopping up operations.” Southampton “is the most enlightened town on Long Island in protecting open space right now.”

As for Brookhaven Town, bigger than all of Nassau County and sitting between mostly over-developed and thus highly-taxed western Long Island and the East End, it’s “between a rock and hard place,” he says. The town doesn’t have a Community Preservation Fund after developers poured money into defeating a referendum on such a system coming to Brookhaven. Still, Brookhaven has made land preservation part of its capital budget, but, meanwhile, the town has more land in need of preservation than any other town on Long Island, emphasizes Mr. Amper.

The idea of a Community Preservation Fund financed through a real estate transfer tax was brilliant. What could be fairer than having those who purchase high-priced real estate — with protection offered to first-time home buyers — carrying the main financial burden for land preservation?

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been raised and used to save open space and farmland through the Community Preservation Funds in the five East End towns since the program was voted in by referenda a dozen years ago. Surely, Brookhaven Town needs, at long last, a similar program.

Before the developers’ bulldozers seek to resume their eastward push, the initiative to save eastern Long Island from the fate of much of western Long Island, to keep this area a green and livable place — and preserve an economy based on that — should be pursued with vigor.

East Hampton Town Plans for the Future

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Ed McDonald has lived in Sag Harbor for five years, but being born and raised in East Hampton, generations of his family steeped in Bonacker history, McDonald feels deeply connected to the town.

“I am very highly invested in East Hampton,” said McDonald. “I feel like a traitor moving to Sag Harbor.”

Light-hearted groans erupted when McDonald admitted he lived on the Southampton side of Sag Harbor.

However, McDonald was one of roughly 60 people who turned out on a brisk Saturday afternoon at East Hampton High School for a special town board meeting aimed at setting new priorities as the town moves through solving a multi-million fiscal crisis under a newly-elected Republican administration. Residents expressed concerns about the estimated $25 million to $30 million deficit the town faces, the impact that could have on services and East Hampton’s commitment to preserving and protecting its environment.

“I love my town,” said McDonald. “I was very much embarrassed by the situation that came up with financial irresponsibility. I know you guys are going to put things back together.”

However, McDonald said he also hopes the new board continues to preserve open space, noting it has enabled East Hampton to preserve its character and unique beauty that makes it a special place to live, and visit.

“If the financial crisis were not our first priority, then the environment would be,” said Supervisor Bill Wilkinson.

Wilkinson, who was joined by Republican board members Theresa Quigley and Dominick Stanzione as well as board member Pete Hammerle at the forum, explained the public input session was designed to bring transparency and inclusiveness to town government.

“Our intent here is to listen,” he said.

Like McDonald, Springs resident Barbara Jordan said she was concerned about any plans the town had to sell property it owns.

“I think it is being penny wise and pound foolish because whatever we sell we will be selling at a loss and land is finite,” she said.

“Our focus on land is not just for the purpose of dealing with the economy, but also to look at the properties we own and ask ourselves, why do we need them,” said Quigley.

Wilkinson added the land the town is contemplating selling is not preserved or protected land, and they would not be considering it but for the fact they are stuck dealing with an estimated $30 million in accumulated debt from the last administration.

Northwest Woods resident Jennifer Mulligan, a second homeowner who served on a financial committee that made recommendations to the town board in the wake of the deficit, quizzed the board on when financial information from the town auditors would be available to the public. She also suggested, as a means of generating revenue, the board could create naming opportunities at the new town hall, which is in the midst of construction. Lastly, Mulligan asked the board take a look at the town recycling center and whether it would be more costly to privatize the facility or charge contractors more than single families to dump there.

From a financial standpoint, Wilkinson said, “I can’t tell you how many surprises there are on a daily basis. The focus is trying to still get to the bottom of where we are and set the tone for our expectations dealing with the crisis we are in.”

Budget officer Len Bernard explained his office is attempting to get its arms around creating a system for capital projects that will allow the town to keep track of finances on a project-by-project basis. Bernard added the town is expecting an auditors’ report in the next two to three weeks as well as a report detailing the spending from CPF for 2008 at the end of this week.

“We are just about to reformulate the budget advisory committee, which will have an expanded footprint,” added board member Dominick Stanzione. That committee, which has focused on the annual town budget, will now also look at the CPF budget and the capital budget.

This week, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and Senator Ken LaValle also announced plans to work with East Hampton in increasing the town’s deficit financing through the state.

“Somehow we owe $28 million,” said Quigley. “We don’t have a choice here.”

Quigley said the town needs to make up that money either by raising taxes, bonding or selling assets and has decided the latter two methods will be easiest on taxpayers.

“We are not increasing the deficit,” said Wilkinson. “We are trying to deal with the cards we have been dealt.”

“Right now we are trying to figure out where the $25 million to $30 million went,” explained Bernard, who said the auditors’ report should detail what accounts were borrowed from during the last administration to cover annual expenses.

While members of East Hampton’s Guild Hall and Phoenix House, a substance abuse center, both implored the board to increase funding for their programming, resident Mary Jean Pinto said before the town spends money in any one direction it should have a handle on what the true demographics and needs of the community are.

“I feel we cannot serve a community whose numbers are unknown,” she said, imploring the board to make an effort to communicate more with the public, using the town’s website as a resource.

Stanzione and Wilkinson agreed understanding who government serves, and in what capacity it should, is a key question. Wilkinson added it is his belief that social programs should be supported, in part, by the town.

“Others may not agree with me,” he offered.

Despite Cuts, Taxes Will Rise In East Hampton

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A majority of residents in the Town of East Hampton are looking at an 18-percent tax increase, despite the fact that Supervisor Bill McGintee’s proposed spending plan for $67 million for the 2009 fiscal year represents an almost $8 million drop from the approved 2008 budget of $75 million. Residents in the Village of East Hampton are looking at a 28-percent tax increase should the budget be adopted as is by the town board.

On October 28 at 10:30 a.m. residents will have the opportunity to address the proposed budget at a special town board meeting, said McGintee on Wednesday, although some residents have already shown up at town board meetings this week to voice their concern about the proposed tax increase.

According to McGintee, cuts in the budget enable the town, in the throes of a multi-million dollar deficit, to pay over $7 million in debt service in 2009 – a part of a 10-year plan to repay a state bond to cover the deficit that McGintee said would reach a maximum of $15 million by the close of 2009.

And while spending is down, according to McGintee, anticipated revenues are projected to be down some $16 million, although McGintee noted the number is deceiving as Community Preservation Fund revenues have been removed from the figures.

“The big downturn in revenues is in mortgage taxes,” said McGintee on Wednesday. The budget anticipates the town will receive $1.5 million less in mortgage tax revenues than it did last fiscal year. McGintee acknowledged the downturn in the real estate market given the current economy was the impetus for the projections. 

In an effort to help stem the revenue tide, McGintee has proposed a number of cuts for civic and cultural programs, as well as increased fees for resident services.

For the first time, town residents will be asked to fork over $25 annually for a town beach sticker, with seniors asked to pay $15 each year. Fees are also going up at the town dump where residents will be asked to pay $104 in 2009, as opposed to $79, and seniors will have to pay $74, up from $50, for their town dump sticker.

According to McGintee, just less than $1 million in grants for cultural mainstays in the town were reduced in this year’s budget as another way to reduce spending. Reductions in funding for programs like the East Hampton Day Care and Project Most, an after school program are also proposed.

“Unfortunately, we did have to make cuts, but what we did make sure to hold on to are the costs that cover services to our seniors and nutrition programs,” said McGintee on Wednesday. “In times like this it is important to look out for those who are most vulnerable.”

McGintee noted programs like the drug rehabilitation and counseling service Phoenix House will continue to see funding.

“No one likes to make cuts,” said McGintee. “They are all worthy causes, but look around the nation – look what is happening everywhere.”

The budget also includes a contractual 4.75 percent salary increase for union employees, which is also extended to cover non-union employees including the town board and supervisor positions. McGintee said in the face of a turbulent economy he would not start cutting jobs, with the knowledge those employees would struggle to find work. 

According to McGintee, he believes this will be a one and only large tax increase town residents will see in coming years.

“I am not going to say there will not be increases in the future, but I do not intend to allow what has happened for the last 10 years to continue.”

McGintee said from now on, as long as he was in office, the cost of running government would be reflected in each budget, and not be covered up by using surplus monies to instill a zero percent tax increase.

“I am confident it is a good budget,” said McGintee, who said he hopes that people with legitimate concerns regarding the budget and any proposed cuts do turn out on October 28.

As a part of the deal reached with the state for a bond to cover the town’s deficit, the town’s finances will be overseen by the state comptroller, who McGintee said would review the 2009 budget. Copies of the budget are available for review in the town clerk’s office.

In other news, the town board approved a measure on Friday to take a $15 million loan against future Community Preservation Fund (CPF) revenues in order to ensure money is available for the purchase of properties like the Boys Harbor camp in Springs and the over 70-acre Dick Cavett parcel in Montauk.

The program’s revenues are generated through a two-percent transfer tax on real estate transactions. McGintee stressed it would likely be the last time the town could borrow against CPF revenues as the downturn in the real estate market continues.













Southampton Town Questions CPF Bills

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Though the governor officially signed the legislation into law over a week ago, the Southampton Town Board is concerned with two new bills relating to the Community Preservation Fund. At a town board work session last Friday, board members seemed most at odds with an aspect of the legislation that states exactly what the CPF fund can be used for in terms of maintenance and stewardship of properties.
The town’s CPF manager Mary Wilson explained the law’s language, which does not allow the fund to be used for particular services to CPF properties, namely grass cutting and utilities costs. Instead such services will now have to be charged to the town’s general fund. Supervisor Linda Kabot described the maintenance issue as one of “practicality” since the acquisition of a property, by nature, entails upkeep. Though she mentioned the state’s need to mandate particular services.
“Other towns took it a major step, in cutting grass, paying council persons’ salaries, doing things that were all overt the map,” she said. “The state saw it better to control. So when you buy something, you have to know, eyes wide open, there might be a general fund impact. There will be parks department costs to cut the grass.”
She pointed out that currently the town’s fund is being used to maintain a Girl Scout camp off Red Creek Road in Hampton Bays purchased with the fund years ago.
“That will now have to be absorbed by the general fund,” she said. “That’s the law.”
Councilman Chris Nuzzi said he was under the impression that language was to be amended before the bill was signed. Kabot said there was discussion, but that an amendment never happened.
“I hope that in the future that’s something that can remain open,” said Nuzzi. “I think that is something that has to happen. It will get unwieldy for the general fund.”
He said the purpose of the law was to purchase land, maintain it and steward it.
“After a property is purchased, it doesn’t just disappear,” he said.
Nuzzi said there was real need to be cautious because the language could be a “disincentive to purchasing property.”
Kabot brought up the “divergent interests” of the five East End towns that benefit from the fund. She said in Southampton, there are more opportunities to use the fund for parks and recreation related properties and mentioned the town’s purchase of the Conscience Point Marina in North Sea.
“For a time, we were paying off things out of [the CPF fund] and now we have to transfer [those costs] to the general fund,” said the supervisor, who also said in the future those type of acquisitions could be less common.
The other bill that went into effect on July 23 has to do with a tax-exemption for first time homebuyers. The board took issue with the bill’s allowable income limits, which are defined by State of New York Mortgage Agency. The law as written sets a ceiling for a household’s income at $97,100 in order to be qualified for the exemption when purchasing a home.
“The state has not addressed fact that the average price of a home in Southampton or East Hampton is higher than in the town of Southold,” said councilwoman Nancy Graboski. “The exemption ought to reflect that.”
The board discussed the improbability of a family, whose income meets the threshold and who’s granted the exemption, ever being able to afford a property when the area median home price is roughly $800,000.
“At some point in the future this has to be addressed again,” said Nuzzi.