In New York, we treasure our history, small family farms, and local community character that have defined us for generations. Unfortunately, strip malls, big box stores and subdivisions have begun to take over our cherished farmland and open spaces, because local municipalities have few tools to protect against this kind of rampant overdevelopment. This bill amends the general municipal law and the tax law to give Orange County the authority to set up a Community Preservation Fund and raise money, if approved by voter referendum, through a real estate transfer tax of up to two percent that the buyer is required to pay when purchasing property.
State funding for the preservation of open space is insufficient, and local options for raising funds are limited to grants, private donations, bonding and appropriation of general municipal funds. Community Preservation Fund legislation allows municipalities to preserve parks, nature preserves, aquifer recharge areas, beaches and shoreline, wildlife refuges, unique or threatened ecological areas, rivers, forests, public access to waterways, historic places, and other critical areas of our communities with a protected reserve fund, using a local funding source.
Municipalities across the state have benefited from their own Community Preservation Funds, including Putnam and Westchester Counties through the 2007 Hudson Valley Community Preservation Act and 11 towns, though not all of them have enacted the real estate transfer tax as a funding source. As of 2017, the Town of Warwick, which passed a referendum in 2006 to enact a .75 percent real estate transfer tax, raised close to $6 million and protected 4,000 acres. The Community Preservation Fund in the five East End towns of Long Island was established in 1998 by a voter referendum approving a two percent real estate transfer tax, and has since raised over $1 billion and protected over 10,000 acres, including saving many family farms.
Local municipalities across New York State desperately need more tools to preserve their cultural and natural resources from overdevelopment and urban sprawl. In 2019 the State Legislature passed a bill providing Ulster County the authority to establish a CPF, and now they should do the same for Orange County. The Orange County Legislature voted unanimously in May 2019 to request this legislation.
This bill amends the general municipal law and the tax law to give Orange County the authority to set up a Community Preservation Fund and raise money, if approved by voter referendum, through a real estate transfer tax.