Peconic Estuary Partnership (NY) Helps Build Community Support for a Real Estate Transfer Tax
Since 1993, the Peconic Estuary Partnership (PEP) has conducted extensive public involvement and outreach in its watershed. The outcome of this work has been strong partnerships with organizations and individuals in their community. Community-based support was crucial to the establishment of a 2-percent real estate transfer tax dedicated to conserving land and other related purposes, including historic preservation.
Real estate transfer taxes are assessments made by states or local governments on real estate transfers based on the sale price of the property. These taxes are paid by the buyer of the property. Implementing the real estate transfer tax required three major steps:
- The New York Legislature needed to pass enabling legislation. State- and national-level real estate and builder lobbies opposed the real estate transfer tax and delayed passage of the enabling legislation for more than a decade. In 1998, the New York Legislature finally voted to allow Long Island's five east end towns to hold referenda on establishing a real estate transfer tax.
- Each town developed a Community Preservation Plan to identify priority parcels for acquisition and easements.
- Each town needed to pass local referenda to approve the tax. Again, real estate and builder lobbies opposed the referenda and spent $300,000 to fight its passage. Despite their efforts, all the towns successfully gained voter approval, passing with at least a 60 percent majority.
A large community-based coalition was formed and included:
- the Committee for the East End Community Preservation Fund
- Suffolk County
- five towns
- local businesses
- builders, citizens and others
This coalition presented a compelling case to voters that preserving open space would protect estuarine resources, groundwater quality and the character of Long Island's East End.
This case was based in part on studies done by the PEP. These studies included an economic valuation of the estuary and its impact on the local economy, detailed information of current land use and projections of development and population trends. Together, they were able to rally support for the enabling legislation and the referenda.
The 2 percent real estate transfer tax is the most successful land protection program on Long Island, and it raised over $169 million through January 2004. Using an average of 2-percent tax revenues and multiplying it through the life of the fund (end of 2020), total additional revenue should be approximately $556 million.
Many critical landscapes have been protected with funds from the 2 percent real estate transfer tax and other sources. However, current land acquisition funding is not sufficient to keep up with development rates. It is estimated that less than 10 percent of the parcels identified as critical in the Peconic watershed could be protected with future 2 percent tax revenues. Fortunately, large amounts of land can be protected through means other than land acquisition.
Some examples include:
- clearing restrictions
- clustering requirements
- overlay districts
- purchase of development rights
- overall better land use practices
It is estimated that the implementation of clearing restrictions and clustering requirements would protect an additional 3,491 acres in the Peconic watershed. Acquiring an equivalent amount of land would cost an estimated $382 million.
Resource: Peconic Estuary Partnership Critical Lands Protection Plan (PDF)(61 pp, 3.9 MB, About PDF) Exit