Options for preserving open space
By TOM KANE
An issue that has been attracting a great deal of attention these days is the need to preserve open space.
So important has this notion become that we are seeing states, counties and other municipalities decide to float bond issues and use other methods to pay for preserving open space.
To the south, we have seen Monroe County in Pennsylvania get approval from voters for a $25 million bond issue that will be used to purchase open space as well as for other planning activities.
In Orange County, New York, legislators have approved $2 million in bonds that will be used to purchase open space as well as $1.5 million to be used for water resource protection.
According to a recent poll of frequent voters in Pike County, a proposed $10 million bond issue to be placed before voters this November is viewed with approval by a 65 percent margin.
In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, voters have approved a $635 million bond issue that will pay for a number of environmental activities, one of which is to purchase open space.
In Warwick, NY, municipal officials are about to approve something called the transfer realty tax, which will go into a fund to purchase open space. This practice has been working very successfully for years on Long Island, NY. The way the transfer realty tax works is that in every transfer of a deed in a realty sale, a fee of a few percentage points will be set aside and put into the open space purchase fund.
Another method for securing open space is the sale or transfer of development rights. An example of this is an instance where a farmer is given money and enters an agreement that the farm will never be developed. The rights are purchased by a land trust like the Delaware Highlands Conservancy that then monitors the land to ensure that it is not developed.
As the pressure of development starts absorbing more of the open land in this area a consideration of some of the above methods is becoming increasingly timely. Among recent projects that are taking open space out of the local inventory are:
A development in Damascus Township on the site of the former Farmstead Village which was originally supposed to have been divided into 1200 lots. Final plans have not yet been confirmed.
A development in the Town of Tusten with lots overlooking the Delaware Ridge. The developer does not appear to be adhering to promises not to clear-cut or build houses that will be easily seen from the river.
Planned developments in the Town of Lumberland, the Town of Delaware at Kenoza Lake, the Town of Highland and the Town of Fremont, with a 19-lot development near Tannanah Lake called Wood Trail Estates.
Now is the time to consider options for preserving open space like those listed above, before the accelerating pace of development has already exhausted available open land.