After 15 years in place, a specific fund within the town's budget may be getting tighter policies around it. The Community Preservation Fund, designed in 1998 to protect land used for historic preservation, parks and recreation, open space and agriculture, "has some policy issues."
That's according to CPF legislation author Assemblyman Fred Thiele, who led a discussion on instituting CPF policies last Friday afternoon at Southampton Town Hall.
"There have been policy issues," Thiele said at a special meeting with the Southampton Town Board, CPF co-author Senator Ken LaValle, and other town officials. "Certain transactions proposed have generated policy issues," he added.
Some concerns Thiele listed included:
• The relationship of town government with the CPF and conservation organizations,
• Whether or not CPF should be acquiring land from conservation organizations,
• Limitations on the kinds of purchases being made,
• What is land that is already protected?
Another issue that came up when discussing CPF was the concept of farmland use. Thiele posed a question: Are farmers being crowded out of the market because protected agricultural lands are going to another use?
"Farmland development rights have been acquired in this town," Thiele said. "How much land has been converted to non-farming use? Is this a real problem? Is CPF the proper tool for this?"
John Halsey, executive director of the Peconic Land Trust, and member of the panel before the town board last week, said the CPF is "about preserving community character."
Southampton real estate agent Paul Brennan reminded the panel, town board and 20 plus audience members the whole purpose of the CPF since its inception.
"The purpose at the time was for the public," he said. "We kept our eye on the prize and didn't change it, because if it changed we'd lose the respect and trust of the public. The only thing that's changed is money. It's opened the eyes of people who may want to cash out."
Bob DeLuca, president of Group for the East End posed two questions during the discussion:
• What's the potential of land that's protected?
• How does the town see their role post-purchase?
Richard Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, said he "would love an understanding of what consequences from buying land from conservation organizations are different when conservation groups are trying to buy. Sure, we want to protect farming, the question is, can we? Is the CPF supposed to fix this?"
Thiele said he hoped the panel would be able to meet in a month or less to revisit the issues talked about last week and possibly find recommendations through further discussion to fix them.