New Paltz voters came out in support of open space. At press time, 72 percent of the ballots cast voted in favor of the Community Preservation Fund 3,648-1,408. There are still more than 1,200 absentee ballots to count, but not enough to change the support of Local Law #1, which is aimed at serving as a financial mechanism to protect and preserve “water quality, working farms, wildlife habitat and natural areas.”
The referendum will require new property owners to pay a one-time 1.5 percent real-estate transfer tax towards the community’s land preservation fund with a $245,000 exemption, the median home value in Ulster County.
Town supervisor Neil Bettez was thrilled at the unofficial numbers which had the referendum passing by over 70%. “I hope that percentage holds up when the absentee ballots are counted, but these numbers are already beyond my expectations. I think this shows how much our residents value land preservation and open space and honestly I believe that this is the most important thing New Paltz has done in decades. It also paves the way for neighboring communities to do the same thing. It’s a sustainable way of funding open space preservation without raising taxes.”
Deputy supervisor Dan Torres concurred. “The campaign leveled against our local referendum (by the New York State Association of Realtors) was the most expensive campaign against a referendum in the history of New Paltz and Ulster County. They spent $150,000 to spread disinformation to our residents about this referendum — that’s more than the entire DA (district attorney’s) race!”
Rhett Weires, a native New Paltzian, also officially won the seat on the New Paltz Town Court handedly as he was running on the Democratic line unopposed. The local lawyer was appointed by the town to fill the vacancy left by former town justice Jonathon Katz in 2019. He has now secured the gavel for a four-year term alongside town justice James Bacon.