Office holders and environmentalists gathered at Sag Harbor's Wednesday to announce that all five towns on the East End have adopted identical regulations to govern each of their Community Preservation Funds, some of which have been beleaguered in the past by questionable or unlawful spending and borrowing.
— coming at the recommendation of a CPF task force created in the beginning of 2010 by state lawmakers — are aimed at standardizing administration of the fund and preventing future abuses. New York State established the Peconic Bay Region CPF 12 years ago primarily to acquire open space and historic sites to preserve the character of the East End and beat back overdevelopment; however, the five towns each had different criteria on what qualified as appropriate spending for the stewardship of CPF acquired lands. Towns are only allowed to spend up to 10 percent of the funds on stewardship, such as land management and the restoration of historic structures.
The task force included East End legislators, towns' land acquisition staff, and members of preservation groups including , the Peconic Land Trust, the and the Long Island Pine Barrens Society.
“We needed to provide specificity with the 10 percent allocated for stewardship,” state Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said, adding the newly adopted regulations are not new laws, but standards to clarify CPF law across the five towns.
Thiele cited past problems with CPF allocation in East Hampton. He said a former East Hampton Town Board administration victimized the CPF, using money for town expenses rather than the acquisition of land or stewardship. The town later had to repay the CPF.
East Hampton Councilwoman Theresa Quigley said her town has since reopened the door to acquiring properties targeted for preservation.
“There is a consensus now on these rules and regulations,” Thiele said. “This is a step forward for CPF.”
“This is a great example of everyone coming together,” Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said.
“There is one unfinished piece of business,” Theile noted. The task force wants to create a regional oversight committee for all East End CPFs to interpret CPF law and regulations.
Theile said the CPF was originally established "to take the politics out of land acquisition.”
The fund is financed by a 2 percent real estate transfer tax, paid by the buyer when a piece of land changes hands on the East End. The fund has generated more than $683 million and has preserved nearly 10,000 acres. The tax is set to expire in 2030.
During Wednesday's press conference, referred to his time as East Hampton Town supervisor. “Before the CPF, we tried so many things [to preserve land] but we just didn’t have the money,” he said. The CPF “has really put the East End in a good position.”
“There are now a dozen CPFs in New York State,” Theile pointed out.
Shelter Island Town Supervisor James Doughherty said the CPF is one of the most important programs to come to Shelter Island.
Kevin McDonald of The Nature Conservancy, who was credited with helping make the CPF a reality in 1998, said, “If there is one thing that unifies the towns [on the East End], it's that they are happy they have a CPF.”