[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Board of the Town of New Paltz 8-23-2007 by L.L. No. 4-2007. Amendments noted where applicable.]
The State of New York, by various legislative enactments, including but not limited to General Municipal Law § 247 and Environmental Conservation Law § 49-0301, has found that the rapid growth and spread of suburban development is encroaching upon or eliminating many open areas and spaces of varied size and character, including many having significant scenic or aesthetic values, which areas and spaces if preserved and maintained in their present open state would constitute important physical, social, aesthetic or economic assets to existing or impending suburban development. The legislature has determined that the acquisition of open spaces and areas is a valid public purpose and that the expenditure of Town funds to acquire legal interests and rights in such lands is in furtherance of such purpose and is a proper expenditure of public funds for public purposes.
The Town of New Paltz supports such public purposes and finds that such purposes can be achieved by instituting a program for the acquisition of interests or rights in real property for the preservation of open spaces and farmland. Such a program would be consistent with the New Paltz Open Space Plan adopted in June 2006. The Town Board further moved toward local funding for the acquisition of open spaces and areas, particularly the purchase of development rights (PDR), by placing a bonding proposition on the November 2006 general election ballot. A majority of voters in the Town approved such proposition, authorizing the expenditure of $2,000,000 for the acquisition of open spaces and areas, including, among other things, development rights. This chapter is intended to indicate generally and in particular the procedures to be employed by the Town to protect and conserve open spaces as characterized in the New Paltz Open Space Plan.
The purpose of this chapter is to provide mechanisms to protect the assets of the Town that provide New Paltz's residents with water that is clean, plentiful and sustainable; farm and forestry industries that are strong and sustainable; habitats for diverse plants and animals; recreational opportunities that are harmonious with the land's natural state, historical, cultural and scenic assets and variety; and educational and research opportunities about the natural world and our agrarian economy. The activities and mechanisms outlined in this chapter protect these assets generally, through the purchase of interests in property, and through ongoing management and stewardship of interests in property acquired by or entrusted or given to the Town.
The activities described in this chapter for the purchase of interests in property, described herein, shall be purely voluntary. Under no circumstances shall any landowner be coerced into participation in these activities.
Through this chapter the Town of New Paltz will expend its tax revenues, and in some cases forego ongoing tax revenues, in order to acquire interests in property. These acquisitions become assets of the Town and are valuable to Town residents. It is incumbent on the Town, in perpetuity, to safeguard these assets by monitoring their condition and, where necessary, taking action to preserve the rights that it has acquired.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meaning indicated:
- AGRICULTURAL USE AND PRODUCTION
- The use and production for commercial purposes of all those items and products as defined in NYS Agriculture and Markets Law § 301, including but not limited to plants and animals useful to man, including fruits, viniculture, nuts, vegetables, greenhouse plants, tree nurseries, Christmas trees, forages, sod crops, grains, feed crops, dairy, processing of farm-produced dairy products, all domestic livestock for breeding and grazing and the equine industry, aquaculture, hydroponics, woody biomass, horticulture, maple sap, and other similar uses and activities.
- The sale or transfer of any development right in real property acquired under this chapter by or from the Town of New Paltz to another person or entity and shall include, without limitation, changes or amendments in the terms or provisions of conservation easements held by the Town.
- BASELINE REPORT AND MONITORING PLAN
- A report and plan, including photographs, maps and narrative, that documents the current state of the property at the time that it, or an interest in it, is acquired pursuant to this chapter; and outlines the plan to monitor preservation of this state and remedies in the event of noncompliance with the easement or other requirements of the purchase of the interests in property. In the case of an easement that is purchased by the Town, the baseline report and monitoring plan is the document that describes how the easement will be monitored. The baseline report and monitoring plan should document features that are important to the CWOSP Commission and Town Board in its decision to acquire the property or interest in it. The baseline report and monitoring plan must be signed and acknowledged before a notary by the seller(s) of the property or interests in the property, the Chair or Vice Chair of the CWOSP Commission, and the Town Supervisor or his/her designee.
- CLEAN WATER AND OPEN SPACE PROTECTION COMMISSION or THE CWOSP COMMISSION
- The Commission established in § 44-4 that shall assist the Town Board in executing this chapter.
- CLEAN WATER AND OPEN SPACE PROTECTION FUNDS
- Includes all monies deposited in the fund established by § 44-7 hereof.
- CONSERVATION EASEMENT
- A negative easement in gross that restricts the use of real property to conservation purposes described in a deed of easement or other legal document.
- DEED OR CONTRACT OF EASEMENT
- A legal document which conveys and/or restricts the use of legal interests in land.
- DEVELOPMENT RIGHT
- Those rights permitted to real property or land with respect to residential or commercial uses or density of use in accordance with law.
- ELIGIBLE LANDOWNER
- A landowner with property that has at least a minimum score under the scoring criteria established by the CWOSP Commission, consistent with the New Paltz Open Space Plan.
- INTERESTS IN PROPERTY
- Include any legally recognized interests or rights in real property, including fee simple ownership, ownership of development rights or easements, options to purchase interests in property, leases of property or development rights, and other interests or rights. Interests in property may also be term interests that expire after a set amount of time.
- MONITORING REPORT
- A report produced at least annually by the CWOSP Commission, Town, or a private entity hired or designated by the CWOSP Commission or Town that documents compliance with the baseline report and monitoring plan. Upon completion, the monitoring report should be signed by the report author, accepted by vote of the CWOSP Commission and signed by its Chair, and signed by the property owner, if applicable. In the event that the property owner refuses to sign, the refusal should be documented. Copies of the report shall be distributed to all holders of the baseline report and monitoring plan and otherwise filed, distributed and publicized in a manner that promotes public capacity to monitor the quality of the assets acquired under this chapter.
- NEGOTIATION BEYOND FIXED CONTRACT FACTORS
- A specific modification to standard agreements, easements, or other standard documents which furthers program interests.
- NONFARM OPEN SPACE
- Parcels of land that are not receiving agricultural assessment. Such open space may be part of a significant viewshed, harbor significant biodiversity and/or endangered species or abundant animal habitats, protect a vital aquifer, be adjacent to an already existing parcel of conserved land, be proximate to a public facility, contain a year-round stream or body of water, have an historic structure (or structures) or proven Native American landmarks and artifacts, or border a scenic road.
- OPEN SPACE ACQUISITION BOND FUNDS (BOND FUNDS)
- The $2,000,000 authorized by the referendum approved by the voters on November 5, 2006.
- The ability of soils to absorb and transmit water from the surface toward the subsoil without an artificial or natural barrier. This term relates to the qualitative evaluation of soils for agricultural purposes.
- POTENTIAL CONFLICT OF INTEREST
- A situation in which a member of the CWOSP Commission or his/her family could specifically benefit from an action taken by the CWOSP Commission. For purposes of this definition, "family members" include spouses and domestic partners, parents and parents-in-law, stepparents, siblings and stepsiblings, children and stepchildren, grandparents and grandchildren. For purposes of this definition, "specifically benefit" means any reward that accrues in a greater amount to the CWOSP Commission member in question than to other citizens of New Paltz. For example, a potential conflict of interest would arise if the Commission considered purchasing interest in property next to a Commission member's mother's home or in a farm where a Commission member's spouse works.
- Anything constructed, erected or moved from other premises and located in, on or under the ground, or attached to anything in, on or under the ground, including fences.
The New Paltz Clean Water and Open Space Commission is hereby established and hereinafter referred to as "the CWOSP Commission" or "the Commission." The Commission's purpose is, with the Town Board, to execute the elements of this chapter.
The CWOSP Commission of the Town shall consist of 11 members to be appointed by the Town Board. Persons residing within the Town of New Paltz who shall have demonstrated significant interest in and commitment to the conservation, protection and encouragement of open space and of agricultural lands, both for production of food and for preservation of such lands as valued natural and ecological resources, evidenced either by involvement in conservation and preservation groups, expertise in real estate, finance, agriculture, or recreation, or by employment or by volunteer activity in such areas, shall be eligible for appointment as members of the Commission. The Commission will seek to have geographic representation from the different areas of the Town identified in the New Paltz Open Space Plan as priorities for protection.
Of the members of the CWOSP Commission first appointed following adoption of this chapter, two shall hold office through December 31, 2007, the successors for whom shall thereafter be appointed for the term of five years; three shall hold office through December 31, 2008, the successors for whom shall thereafter be appointed for the term of five years; three shall hold office through December 31, 2009, the successors for whom shall be appointed for the term of five years; and three shall hold office through December 31, 2011, the successors for whom shall be appointed for the term of five years each. If a vacancy shall occur otherwise than by expiration of a term, it shall be filled by the Town Board by appointment for the unexpired term.
The Commissioners shall file an oath of office with the Town Clerk upon commencement of his/her duties and shall be governed by applicable state and local laws, rules and regulations with respect to conduct and ethics and shall be deemed public officers of the Town for purposes of bonding/filing oaths of office and resignations and public officers liability insurance.
All members of the CWOSP Commission shall be chosen by a majority vote of the Town Board and shall, at the time of their appointment and throughout their term of office, be electors of the Town of New Paltz and shall serve without compensation and at the pleasure of the Town Board.
The Commission, by majority vote of its members, shall designate one of its members to serve as Chairperson through December 31, 2007, the successor of whom shall thereafter be designated in the same manner to serve in such capacity for one year. In the event that the Commission shall be unable to or shall fail to designate such Chairperson, the Town Board, by majority vote of its members, shall designate one of the members of the Commission to serve as Chairperson. Notwithstanding the manner in which a Chairperson has been designated, any such designation, at any time with or without cause, may be rescinded by resolution of the Town Board.
The Commission, by majority vote of its members, shall designate one of its members to serve as Vice Chairperson through December 31, 2007, the successor of whom shall thereafter be designated in the same manner to serve in such capacity for one year. In the event that the Commission shall be unable to or shall fail to designate such Vice Chairperson, the Town Board, by majority vote of its members, shall designate one of the members of the Commission to serve as Vice Chairperson. Notwithstanding the manner in which a Vice Chairperson has been designated, any such designation, at any time with or without cause, may be rescinded by resolution of the Town Board.
The Commission shall meet at least bimonthly. Meetings shall be called consistent with the provisions of Article 7 of the Public Officers Law (Open Meetings Law), and all members of the Commission shall be given prior, written notice of the time and place of all Commission meetings, except in emergency circumstances when personal and/or telephone notice shall be deemed to be sufficient. Special meetings may be called by the Chairperson of the Commission or by any three Commission members.
All meetings shall be publicly announced and open to the public pursuant to the Open Meetings Law of the State of New York (Public Officers Law Article 7). In addition, minutes of open meetings (and executive sessions at which a final determination of action was taken) shall be compiled pursuant to the Open Meetings Law and made available to the Records Access Officer of the Town of New Paltz (the Town Clerk) within two weeks.
A quorum for the transaction of business shall consist of at least six of the Commission's members. All decisions and actions of the Commission shall be formally voted upon, with a majority vote of the total authorized membership of the Commission needed to pass any motion, proposal or resolution. Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Law, a voting record shall be compiled that identifies how individual members voted in every instance.
Editor's Note: See Public Officers Law Article 6.
The Commission shall compile and keep current a reasonably detailed list, by subject matter, of all records in its possession. Records compiled or acquired by the Commission in the course of and in the furtherance of its official function shall be accessible to the public under the Freedom of Information Law (Public Officers Law Article 6), except those that fall under the category of nondiscloseable records pursuant to that law or pursuant to any other applicable state or federal law. Access to the Commission's records or portions of records, available to the public as provided herein, shall be in accordance with the procedures set forth in the Code of the Town of New Paltz.
The CWOSP Commission's role is to advise and assist the Town Board in implementing this chapter and to help the Town protect agricultural, open, and undeveloped land and other natural resources. The Commission shall have the authority to:
Hold informational meetings;
Communicate with landowners and others about programs, described in this chapter and elsewhere, that support the preservation of open, agricultural and environmentally significant lands;
Encourage and solicit applications from landowners to programs that acquire interests in property;
Develop ranking criteria for evaluation of properties consistent with the open space plan.
Consider acquisition or interests in agricultural lands; the Committee shall make every effort to enlist at least two but no more than three farmers from outside the Town of New Paltz to assist in the preparation of on-site reviews of agricultural lands and facilities, to interview applicants, to study applications, to determine the extent to which farms exhibit values consistent with criteria established by the Commission, to arrive at a ranking of applicants and to submit the results to the Commission;
Assist the Town Board in the execution of this chapter, including recommending expenditures of revenues and fees associated with this chapter and interest on monies in the fund in accordance with the purposes of this chapter;
Promulgate, subject to Town Board approval, procedural rules, regulations and establishment of fees necessary to carry out the purposes and intent of this chapter and to administer its provisions, including evaluation and ranking of applicants for acquisition of interests in property;
Offer review, analysis and other assistance with the application process;
Establish baseline report and monitoring plans on each interest in property acquired in accordance with this chapter; ensure at least annual completion of monitoring reports and compliance with the baseline reports and with conservation easements where applicable; formally review annual monitoring reports and other reports on compliance with terms of the baseline reports and conservation easements where applicable; take prompt and effective action to protect the rights, of the Town of New Paltz should it discover inconsistencies between the baseline reports, conservation easements held or owned by the Town and current conditions;
Make baseline reports, monitoring plans, monitoring reports, and conservation easements easily available so that the public can monitor the investments that the Town has made in interests in property;
In cases where the town has or intends to acquire development rights, serve as a review board for the making of recommendations for the location, construction, or moving of structures onto or within all lands on which development rights have been acquired with respect to any applications pending before any other local governmental board, body or agency;
Provide input on any matters relating to the acquisition of development rights as they relate to the Town;
Seek funds to increase and leverage monies in the fund from government and private sources;
Complete applications for federal, state and other grant funding available for programs to preserve open space, farmland and other lands consistent with the purpose of this chapter and hire grant writers if needed for same; and
Have such powers and exercise such duties as are set forth in this chapter.
The Town of New Paltz Preservation and Investment Fund (the "fund") is hereby established. Its purpose shall be to purchase interests in property and fund the activities described in this chapter, including the ongoing management and stewardship of interests in property acquired through this chapter.
Deposits into the fund shall include revenues of the Town from whatever source and shall include, at a minimum, bond funds of November 2006, all revenues from or for the amortization of indebtedness authorized for the acquisition of open spaces or areas pursuant to § 247 of the General Municipal Law, and any revenues from any real estate transfer tax which may be established.
The fund shall also be authorized to accept gifts on behalf of the Town.
Interest accrued by monies deposited in the fund shall be credited to the fund.
Fees collected in conjunction with administration of this chapter shall be deposited in the fund.
Proceeds from the sale or lease of lands or other property acquired through the fund shall be deposited in the fund.
At its discretion, the Town Board may deposit other monies in the fund.
In no event shall monies deposited in the fund be transferred to any other fund or account.
Nothing contained in this chapter shall be construed to prevent the financing, in whole or in part, pursuant to the Local Finance Law of the State of New York, of any acquisition or interest authorized by this chapter. Monies from the fund may be utilized to repay any indebtedness or obligations incurred pursuant to the Local Finance Law, consistent with the purposes and intent of this chapter.
The fund shall be used exclusively:
The Town Board shall hear and decide on all applications for the purchase of interests in property made pursuant to this chapter. No interest or right in real property shall be acquired by the fund until a public hearing is held.
The Commission shall establish a mechanism to solicit and receive applications for use of monies in the fund, including the review and ranking criteria and the application requirements for submission contents, deadlines and application fees (which may be set by the Town Board).
Applications must, among other things, make clear:
The application fees required for participation and whether they are refundable;
That alterations to the property between the time of the application and final sale may, at the advice of the Commission and the discretion of the Town Board, prevent the sale from being completed; and
That the Town is required to safeguard its assets and will take action should its interests in property be impaired.
In order to solicit applications for the purchase of interests in property, the Commission will publish notice, at the Town's expense, of the availability of funding in at least one local newspaper and shall otherwise publicize the availability of funding in such a manner as to ensure maximum awareness and applications for use of the fund. The Commission may also notify landowners directly about the availability of funding.
All applications for funding shall be filed with the Commission and fees paid, in the manner prescribed by the Commission, and supported by such additional information, maps and other documents as shall be required by the Commission to insure compliance with this chapter.
Before reviewing applications, Commission members must disclose to each other any potential conflicts of interest and must determine whether such potential conflicts of interest require that a Commission member not attend discussions about certain applications.
The Commission will review and score applications. The Commission is permitted to engage outside experts and hold public hearings to gather information that will support its scoring of applications.
Once its review and scoring is complete, the Commission will transmit to the Town Board all the papers constituting the application, along with the Commission's recommendations and rankings.
Within 30 days of receipt of the Commission recommendations, the Town Board shall publish, in the official newspaper of the Town, notice of the time, place and date upon which the application shall be heard at a public hearing to be held not less than 20, nor more than 30 days following publication.
At least 20 days before the date of the hearing held in connection with any application submitted to the Town Board, the Town Board shall transmit to the Planning Board, to the Environmental Conservation Commission and to such other boards as the Town Board shall determine a copy of the application and shall request that each such board submit to the Town Board its advisory opinion on said application. Each board shall submit its recommendations prior to the date of the public hearing. The failure of such board to submit its recommendations shall be interpreted as a favorable recommendation upon the application.
No land or rights in land shall be acquired within the geographical boundaries of the incorporated Village of New Paltz unless the Village has consented to such acquisition.
At the Town Board hearing the Board will review the applications, the CWOSP Commission recommendations, the Planning Board and Environmental Conservation Commission recommendations and other evidence and render a decision about which purchase to make. If the Town Board decides to take actions not recommended by the CWOSP Commission, the Town Board shall issue a statement explaining why it is at variance with the CWOSP Commission.
The CWOSP Commission shall assist the Town in the completion of the transaction.
Prior to the completion of the transaction, the Commission will prepare or cause to be prepared a baseline report and monitoring plan for each interest in property acquired. Should conditions have changed from those at the time of application, the Commission can recommend a review of the property and a stop to the purchase.
Conservation easements placed on the property through a CWOSP recommendation shall include the Town as a party to the easement and shall be filed with the county.
Upon announcement of grant-funding opportunities by state, county, and/or federal agencies, two commission members shall be selected to study the RFP (request for proposals) and make a recommendation to the Commission about whether or not to apply for a particular grant. To the extent appropriated funds are available, and with the consent of the Town Board, the Commission may employ the services of a grant writer to be retained by the Town in order to facilitate and enhance the application for and receipt of grants.
After evaluating and ranking the potential projects that would qualify for a grant, only those that rank within the top 15% of all applications shall be submitted for grant funding.
The Town Board may accept by gift interests in open spaces, or rights thereto, on terms and conditions acceptable to the Town Board. If so designated, such lands and or rights, including, among other things, development rights, shall be deemed to have been acquired under the clean water and open space preservation program and shall be subject to the same diligence established by this chapter and related amendments and regulations, including requirements to establish a baseline report and monitoring plan.
If the Town purchases Village-owned property, the Town and the Village will enter into a purchase agreement to specify the types of uses for which the funds can be used to preserve or enhance open space. Any purchase agreement should also provide that the Town will not be required to maintain or develop the property unless agreed upon by the parties.
Nothing herein shall prevent the Town Board from entering into a conditional purchase agreement before a public hearing is held.
Any resolution of the Town Board approving an acquisition of land pursuant to this chapter shall include a finding that such acquisition is a suitable alternative for the protection of such lands available for the Town, that such acquisition is in furtherance of the Town's goals for the equitable allocation of open space acquisition bond funds (if applicable), and that acquisition is in furtherance of other applicable program goals.
A decision to fund may be for a limited time or can be rescinded at any time by the Town Board.
Interests in property acquired under this chapter shall be administered and managed in a manner which:
Allows public use and enjoyment in a manner compatible with the natural, scenic, historic, and open space character of such lands;
Preserves the native biological diversity of such lands;
With regard to open spaces, limits improvements to enhancing access for passive use of such lands, such as nature trails, boardwalks, bicycle paths and peripheral parking areas, provided that such improvements do not degrade the ecological value of the land or threaten essential wildlife habitat; and
Preserves cultural property consistent with accepted standards for historic preservation.
Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, there shall be no right to public use and enjoyment of land used in conjunction with a farm operation as defined by Subdivision 11 of § 301 of the Agriculture and Markets Law, unless the landowner explicitly agrees to permit such public use and enjoyment.
The Town may enter into agreements with corporations organized under the Not-For-Profit Corporation Law to engage in land trust activities to manage lands, including less-than-fee interests acquired pursuant to this chapter. Any such agreement shall contain a provision that such corporation shall keep the lands accessible to the public unless such corporation shall demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Town that public accessibility would be detrimental to the lands or any natural features associated therewith.
Except as provided for in the remainder of this section, interests in property acquired through this chapter shall not be sold, leased for more than one year, exchanged, donated or otherwise disposed of or used for other than the purposes permitted by this chapter without a local law adopted by 4/5 of the Town Board, the majority plus one vote of the Town and subject to a permissive referendum.
Any easements created with this chapter that also fall under the jurisdiction of state or federal law (including the Agriculture and Markets Law and Title 3 of Article 49 of the Environmental Conservation Law) may only be extinguished or modified as provided under that applicable state or federal law.
This section shall not apply to the sale of development rights by the Town where said sale is made by a central bank created by the Town, pursuant to a transfer of development rights program, should such a program be adopted by the Town. It shall also not apply to temporary purchases of land and leases of property described in Subsections D and E of this section.
The Town Board may purchase real estate, from willing sellers, that is deemed to be threatened by development, in order to protect a critical area of open space, agriculture or other element defined in § 44-2A of this chapter. The fund may be temporarily used for such purposes. When such land is sold, it shall bear an easement that ensures the preservation of those elements, such as open space or agricultural use, for which it was temporarily purchased. To the extent that the funds used to purchase such land came from the fund, the net sales price of such land will be returned to the fund. A sale of land pursuant to the provisions of this subsection shall not be subject to the requirements of Subsection A of this section.
A majority of the Town Board may decide to lease interests in property acquired in conjunction with this chapter for a temporary (here defined as a period of less than one year) purpose, provided that such actions neither violate the terms of any easements on the property nor violate agreements with other entities that contributed to the Town's purchase of such interests in property. For example, there might be interest in using land designated as open to erect a temporary structure for a public event; there might also be crop or hunting rights on land for which the Town owns rights. Upon recommendation by the Commission that the temporary use does not contravene the purpose of the acquisition, a majority of the Town Board may vote to permit such a use. Lease revenues from such a use shall be deposited in the fund. The Commission shall be empowered to take all necessary steps, including negotiating a lease contract and requiring sufficient insurance and a performance bond, to ensure that after the lease period the land is returned to its original condition.
The Town Board may accept by gift interests in property on terms and conditions acceptable to the Town Board. If so designated, such lands and or rights, including, among other things, development rights, shall be deemed to have been acquired under the clean water, open space and agricultural land acquisition program and shall be subject to the same diligence established by this chapter and related amendments and regulations, including requirements to establish a baseline report and monitoring plan.
The Commission shall have access to attorneys for the Town, designated by the Town Board, in matters requiring legal opinion.
Because the preparation and review of monitoring reports is critical to the preservation of Town assets, the CWOSP Commission or, in the event the CWOSP Commission becomes dormant or ceases to exist, the Town Board may delegate the annual preparation and review of these reports to another body of the Town, to another government agency, to an independent contractor under contract to provide such services to the Town, or to a nonprofit corporation with a bona fide interest in preservation of the interests in property acquired through this chapter.