[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Board of the Town of East Hampton 8-21-1987 as part of L.L. No. 11-1987. (This local law also provided for the adoption of Art. III, Conservation Easements, of Ch. 225.) Amendments noted where applicable.]
Building construction — See Ch. 102.
Environmental quality review — See Ch. 128.
Open space preservation — See Ch. 193.
Subdivision of land — See Ch. 220.
Zoning — See Ch. 255.
It is the purpose of this chapter to provide for the acquisition of, and in appropriate cases the modification or termination of, conservation easements by the Town of East Hampton over real property situate in the Town for the conservation, preservation and protection of the environmental resources and the natural and man-made attributes and values of such lands. Such areas are significant because of their scenic or natural beauty, geological or ecological character or historical, archaeological or cultural amenities, and the conservation, preservation and protection of these characteristics is fundamental to the maintenance and enhancement of recreational and commercial opportunities, tourism, community attractiveness, balanced growth and the quality of life in the Town generally.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- CONSERVATION EASEMENT
- An easement, covenant, restriction or other interest in real property which limits or restricts development, management or use of such real property for the purpose of preserving or maintaining the scenic, open, natural or existing character, condition, significance or amenities of the real property.
- The process of converting a tract of land to a specific purpose either through man-made physical changes to the real estate or by making application for permits or approvals from local, county, state or federal government agencies for permission or approval to improve, convert or otherwise change the physical or legal status of the property. Pursuant to this chapter, when a conservation easement provides that the subject property shall not be developed, such proscription shall specifically include, but not be limited to, making application to the Town for a subdivision, subdivision waiver, site plan approval, special permit or building permit.
- OPEN SPACE OR OPEN AREA
- Any lands or waters within the Town characterized by natural scenic beauty or whose open character, natural condition or present state, if retained, would enhance the present or potential value of adjacent, surrounding or nearby lands or development or would maintain or enhance the conservation of natural, cultural or scenic resources. For the purposes of this chapter, natural resources shall include but not be limited to agricultural lands as open lands suitable for use in bona fide agricultural production.
Local agency approval. Where the easement is offered to the Town pursuant to a condition or requirement of an approval or permit granted to the owner of the affected property by an agency or board of the town, the Town Board may accept such grant of an easement after a public hearing held upon due notice as provided for in § 247, Subdivision 2, of the General Municipal Law.
Proposal by owner. Any owner or owners of land may, on their own initiative, offer to grant a conservation easement to the town. Where such a grant of an easement is offered to the town, the Town Board shall, before taking any action, refer the matter to the Town Planning Department for its recommendation. The Planning Department shall review the proposed easement and investigate the areas or lands covered by the easement to determine if the proposal would be of benefit to the people of the Town of East Hampton by furthering the purposes set forth in this chapter. In formulating its recommendation, the Planning Department may consult with or solicit the advice of any other agency or department of the Town or with any bona fide nonprofit conservation organization having particular or special knowledge of the areas or lands covered by the proposed easement. The Planning Department shall submit its findings and recommendations to the Town Board in writing. Upon receipt of such recommendation, the Town Board may accept such grant of an easement if it determines, after a public hearing held upon due notice as provided for in § 247, Subdivision 2, of the General Municipal Law, that it is in the public interest and would further the purposes set forth in this chapter.
All conservation easements accepted by the Town Board pursuant to § 16-3 of this chapter shall be in a form acceptable to the Town Attorney but at a minimum shall meet the following standards:
The easement shall be in writing in a form prescribed by the Town and executed by the owner or owners of the affected property. The easement shall be in a form suitable for recording in the office of the Suffolk County Clerk.
The easement shall describe the property encumbered by the easement by adequate legal description or by reference to a survey showing its boundaries and bearing the seal and signature of a licensed land surveyor.
Conservation easements must have a minimum term of five years. There shall be no maximum term; all easements shall be perpetual in duration unless otherwise provided in such instrument.
In the case of agricultural easements suitable for agricultural production as defined in § 301 of the Agriculture and Markets Law of the State of New York, the grantor must covenant and agree that the land under the easement will not be developed, built upon or otherwise changed during the term of the conservation easement except that agricultural operations shall be permitted.
In all other cases, the grantor must agree that the land under the easement will not be developed, built upon, cleared or otherwise disturbed or changed during the term of the conservation easement, except that bona fide conservation management measures may be permitted pursuant to a conservation plan approved by the Director of Environmental Protection of the Town.
Land covered by a conservation easement may be sold, but the terms and conditions of the conservation easement shall run with the land and shall continue for the term of the easement.
Where the parcel covered by the conservation easement contains a principal dwelling or other buildings and structures, said dwelling, buildings or structures shall be excepted from the conservation easement unless the instrument, by its terms, expressly applies to such dwelling, building or structure.
The Town Board of the Town of East Hampton may not modify, alienate or terminate any easement granted to the Town of East Hampton, whether pursuant to this chapter or under the provisions of § 247 of the General Municipal Law or Title 3 of the Environmental Conservation Law, unless a proposition to do so has been approved by the electors of the Town of East Hampton at a special or biennial Town election.
It shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation to violate the terms of any conservation easement granted to the Town of East Hampton.
[Amended 9-5-2003 by L.L. No. 29-2003]
Any person, firm, corporation or other entity that commits a violation of this chapter shall be subject to a fine not to exceed $1,000 or to imprisonment for not more than six months, or both, for each and every such violation.
In lieu of or in addition to these punishments, any offender may be punished by being ordered to restore the affected property to its condition prior to the offense, insofar as that is possible. Any such order shall specify a reasonable time for the completion of such restoration, which shall be effected under the supervision of the approving authority.
After the date on which the Building Inspector, Ordinance Enforcement Officer, or other responsible Town official shall have provided notice of a violation or a stop-work order to the offender, each day's continuance thereof shall be deemed a separate and distinct offense.
In addition to any other remedies in equity or law available to the Town, where a conservation easement is violated or extinguished, except by eminent domain, the penalties provided for in § 255-10 of this Code shall be paid.