At its June 7 meeting, the Gardiner Town Board voted to move forward with the process of adopting a Community Preservation Plan (CPP). It established itself as lead agency in the project’s State Environmental Quality Review, a Type 1 action; confirmed the number of members of the Advisory Board at seven; set the rate of the Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) at 1.25 percent, slightly lower than New Paltz’s 1.5 percent; and scheduled a public hearing for July 12 on all three local laws that need to be adopted by the end of July in order for the CPP and RETT to go into effect in 2023.
Progress on this issue comes as no surprise, as the Plan has been in preparation for more than a year now, and the entire Board has seemed invested in its adoption. The shocker at last week’s meeting was that Warren Wiegand, a strong proponent of open space preservation during all his years as a public servant in Gardiner, voted Nay on all of these resolutions. His rationale was that, despite it being an “excellent proposal,” not enough time was left to sell the CPP to the citizens of Gardiner in time for the November referendum, passage of which is necessary to enactment of the RETT.
“We’re doing the right thing, but we’re going too fast,” Wiegand said. “The community really doesn’t know enough about the Community Preservation Plan for this thing to proceed.” He based that assessment on conversations he’d had informally with fellow Gardiner residents, he said.
Much of Wiegand’s concern had to do with the current state of the US economy and the anxiety of voters coming to the polls on Election Day. “By November, inflation is going to be worse,” he predicted. “A new property tax is a big deal… Laws with economic impact should be developed carefully, with a lot of public education.”
The rest of the Town Board disagreed, arguing that the upcoming public hearing would provide an adequate opportunity for residents to get up to speed on what is being proposed, and that there was still time for other outreach. They also took issue with Wiegand’s characterization of the RETT as a “property tax.” Councilman Franco Carucci pointed out that the new tax “impacts prospective buyers, not property-owners. It doesn’t affect me unless I sell and buy another house here… Everybody who comes here should feel that it’s an investment.”
Carucci also noted that the RETT adopted in New Paltz has already “proven very successful.” Councilwoman Laura Walls agreed: “It works in other communities; we’re not the first. I feel comfortable to go forward.”
“I feel we have a good product. I feel we have time to promote it,” said supervisor Marybeth Majestic, calling for votes on all three resolutions. They passed 4-1.
Passage of the local laws adopting the CPP is expected after the public hearing on July 12. These must then be filed with the New York State Department of State before the Board can vote to adopt the RETT. A special meeting for that sole purpose was scheduled for July 27. August 8 is the last date when the Town can file with the Board of Elections to get the RETT referendum on the November 2022 ballot.