To the editor:
Richard Amper should tinker in his own toolbox, not the 2 percent tax fund.
The reason for the land preservation program was to preserve farmland, to keep agriculture viable and, in the process, keep the rural and agricultural character of the five East End towns intact. That goal is still in process, with vast acres of land which could and should still be preserved. Although it is an important goal, preservation of water quality was not the purpose of the legislation.
Fewer subdivisions, and consequently fewer new houses, result from farmland preservation, so the program has water quality protection as one of its benefits. When a farm’s development rights are sold, the number of cesspools, roads and other potential residential components are removed. According to a May 2014 report by the Nature Conservancy on the Peconic Estuary, the primary source of nitrogen contamination is wastewater from septic systems.
I understand Assemblyman Fred Thiele’s intent in suggesting the tax diversion: the South Fork has loads of land preservation money he thinks can be better spent, but given land costs and the difficulty farming on the South Fork, money is required to keep any semblance of farming there. The other local towns do not harvest the millions of dollars generated by the South Fork programs. I also understand Mr. Amper’s intent — he wants to use someone else’s money for his goals. The farmland preservation funds should not be tapped into for purposes other than keeping our farmland preserved and viable.
There are other sources for water quality funding, and advocates for one important local goal should not be siphoning from others who need it.
Gail Wickham, Cutchogue