Buy land; they’re not making it anymore.
— Mark Twain
The Town of Gardiner took a step closer last week to having a Community Preservation Plan and Fund, like an increasing number of surrounding municipalities. Following a presentation by former Town Board member David Dukler about the results of a survey of residents’ open space preservation priorities, the Board voted at its May 10 meeting to set the number of Advisory Board members at seven rather than the minimum of five. The rationale given was that it would be easier to convene a quorum with more members, and that the committee currently promoting the CPP/CPF already had enough people with the necessary expertise interested in continuing to monitor such a program.
Other details have yet to be resolved, most importantly the rate of the local real estate transfer tax that would be imposed to fund the CPF. Comparable programs in the Hudson Valley are funded at tax rates ranging from .75 percent in Warwick to two percent in Red Hook. New Paltz currently imposes a rate of 1.5 percent for its CPF.
Such a tax is levied on the difference between the purchase price and the tax exemption level set annually by Ulster County, which is the countywide median sale price of a home in the previous calendar year. That number is announced each March; the most recent update is $320,000. So, if a Gardinerite sold their house for $550,000, the buyer – not the seller – would pay the Town a certain percentage of the difference, $230,000. Town supervisor Marybeth Majestic noted that the exemption rate for the year before would be “grandfathered” in the case of a sale that had already gone to contract by March when the median rate is updated by the County.
Discussions among Gardiner’s Town Board members have so far trended in the range of one to 1.5 percent for the proposed transfer tax rate, but they have yet to agree on a figure. “There’s some concern on the Board about setting the transfer tax before seeing the plan,” Majestic explained.
According to Jean McGrane, who chairs the committee developing the CPP, the plan will be “done by the end of May,” including whatever tweaks are elicited at a community information session scheduled for 7 p.m. this Thursday, May 19, at Town Hall and via Zoom at www.townofgardiner.org/community-preservation-plan. The Board will need to finalize the necessary local laws – including setting the tax rate – by early June, with a public hearing in July and adoption by August, in order to get the required referendum added to the ballot for November 2022. If approved by Gardiner voters, the earliest the program could commence is February 1, 2023, Majestic said.
Dukler noted that 570 Gardinerites had responded to the CPP survey. Among other questions, participants were asked to rate their top three preservation priorities for the Town. “Meadows, forests, wildlife habitat and the Ridge” was the top vote-getter at 75.3 percent, “Rivers, streams, wetlands and drinking water” in second place at 65.6 percent and “Scenic views and rural character” third at 55.8 percent. A link to view the full results of the survey is provided on the same Town webpage cited above, as well as a “Frequently Asked Questions” sheet about the Community Preservation Plan.