$3.5 million for Parks and Public Lands Approved by Town of New Paltz Voters
The Town of New Paltz became the first municipality in Ulster County to approve a real estate transfer tax to support a local Community Preservation Fund. The fund will be used to protect the town’s river and streams, drinking water source, working farms, and wildlife habitat. The measure is estimated to generate more than $3.5 million over 20 years.
Local Law No. 1, “Water Quality, Working Farms, Wildlife Habitat and Natural Areas Preservation Fund” passed with over 72% voter approval. New Paltz voters approved the Community Preservation Fund despite a vigorous “Vote No” campaign by the Albany-based New York State Association of Realtors. The opposition to Local Law No. 1 spent $143,000, an amount unprecedented for any local election in New Paltz, in a failed attempt to defeat the measure.
The newly passed Local Law approves a real estate transfer tax of 1.5% per $1,000 over $245,000. It is a one-time fee paid by homebuyers and will not raise general property taxes. The exemption was adopted to protect buyers of lower priced homes, often first-time homeowners. The tax proceeds will go into a community preservation fund that will be used to protect properties recently identified by the community for preservation. The Local Law was authorized by an expansion of the Hudson Valley Community Preservation Act in 2019 to all towns in Ulster County.
A broad coalition of local residents, local officials, businesses, and environmental groups supported the measure. The Town of New Paltz is a gateway to the Shawangunk Mountains and its economy and way of life have benefitted from over thirty years of investments in protecting nearby lands, including the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, creation of Minnewaska State Park, and expansion of Mohonk Preserve, and protecting local farmland that provides fresh food. These natural resources attract millions of visitors per year. During the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, the region has seen both an uptick in visitors and new residents alike as people from across the region seek out opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.
The New Paltz Community Preservation Plan identifies seven focus areas based on the presence of natural and cultural resources, including water resources, agricultural lands, significant habitats, historic properties, scenic areas, and lands with potential for future recreation access and trails. Approximately 1,500 parcels are identified as eligible for potential conservation under the new community preservation fund. They are ranked in order of priority based on the number of overlapping resources that are present.
The local community came together to support this measure as residents organized numerous meetings to adopt a carefully constructed conservation plan and to explain the measure, while speaking with thousands of their neighbors.
“Residents need public spaces now more than ever, as is shown by record visitation to Minnewaska and other parks,” said Carter Strickland, New York State Director for The Trust for Public Land, “Voters in New Paltz showed that they are willing to unite to ensure clean water, recreational spaces, and a quality of life for future residents and visitors. We are seeing this movement across the country, from neighborhood parks to national parks, and during the COVID-19 crisis, the 2020 election gave voters in 48 jurisdictions throughout the country an opportunity to weigh in on the value of outdoors spaces to their quality of life.”
“I am happy to see the overwhelming support that the people of New Paltz have for preserving and protecting the very things that make this such a special place to live,” said Neil Bettez, Town of New Paltz Supervisor.
“We are proud that the New Paltz community so firmly embraced the ballot measure – the overwhelmingly favorable votes are a powerful mandate for conservation,“ said Cara Lee, New Paltz resident and co-chair of the local campaign committee. “Establishing a Community Preservation Fund will make it possible to protect farmland, natural areas and keep our water clean in New Paltz, and as the first community in Ulster County to establish a community preservation fund, New Paltz provides an great example for other communities in our region.”
“Yesterday’s overwhelming adoption of a Community Preservation Fund in New Paltz is a victory for clean water, parks and working farms,” said Andy Bicking, Director of Public Policy for Scenic Hudson. “It also shows how a community can come together to chart a positive future. Despite facing well-funded opposition, and misinformation, from out-of-town lobbyists, 72 percent of voters recognized the importance of protecting more of the natural assets that make New Paltz so special. Scenic Hudson hopes this will inspire other communities to follow their lead.”
“In a tremendous bipartisan victory, the people of New Paltz have voted overwhelmingly to protect clean water, family farms, and natural areas through a Community Preservation Fund. The fund will continue the community’s legacy of conserving precious lands, waters, and wildlife for future generations. We commend the New Paltz community for their amazing grassroots effort to bring this to the ballot and secure its passage, once again reaffirming the importance of our environment and its critical role in securing health and prosperity for our communities,” said Bill Ulfelder, New York executive director of The Nature Conservancy.”
“Passage of this local initiative is a strong statement in support of conservation and a recognition of the many benefits of protected land” said Kim Elliman, President and CEO of the Open Space Institute. “From clean water and local farms to easy access to area trails, such as OSI’s River-to-Ridge Trail, strategic land protection is at the heart of what makes New Paltz so special. I congratulate our partners, but more importantly, the voters who joined us in standing up for the land and the future of New Paltz.”
“The Community Preservation Fund in New Paltz not only helps foster collaboration between local non-profits and other stakeholders to ensure open space is protected for generations to come, but it also supports the mission of the Wallkill Valley Land Trust,” said Wallkill Valley Land Trust Board President, Beth Bengtson. “Creation of the fund spotlights the importance of protecting natural resources, and we look forward to leveraging it to permanently conserve local open space, trails and farms.”
“The New Paltz community has spoken loud and clear about the importance of investing in open space to keep drinking water clean, agricultural lands productive, and recreational areas available for all to enjoy,” said Kevin Case, President and CEO of Mohonk Preserve. “Thank you to all of those that made this possible and the Town’s leadership in making it a priority.”
About The Trust for Public Land
The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live within a 10-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit www.tpl.org.
The Trust for Public Land, through its Conservation Finance program and affiliated Trust for Public Land Action Fund, actively helped design and sought voter support for park and climate and land conservation measures on the 2020 ballot in 25 communities. Since 1996, The Trust for Public Land and The Trust for Public Land Action Fund have helped state and local communities across the country generate more than $80 billion in voter-approved public funds for land protection for parks, and acquisition of land to protect wildlife habitat, farmland, drinking water supplies, and natural areas.