Southold’s Planning Board concerned with preservation fund plans

Like many agricultural parcels in Southold Town, Marratooka North Farm, an 18-acre farm off Main Road in Mattituck, is preserved land and can't be developed. (Credit: Carrie Miller file)
Like many agricultural parcels in Southold Town, Marratooka North Farm, an 18-acre farm off Main Road in Mattituck, is preserved land and can’t be developed. (Credit: Carrie Miller, file)

As Albany lawmakers work to extend the Peconic Community Preservation Fund to 2050 and break off a portion of its proceeds to protect the region’s water quality, Southold Planning Board members want the Town Board to know they’re not fully supporting the moves.

While the Planning Board members like the idea of extending the preservation program — which protects farms and open spaces using money from a 2 percent transfer tax on East End real estate sales — they wouldn’t like seeing some of the proceeds used toward mitigating pollution in waterways.

The town’s planning director, Heather Lanza, is now putting the finishing touches on a memo to the Town Board saying as much.

“My personal feeling is [divvying up the money] is a slippery slope I just don’t want to get into,” Planning Board member James Rich said during a brief discussion at Monday evening’s meeting. He harkened back to state lottery money and OTB proceeds that got divided multiple ways over time, diluting the funds.

“I support the memo,” added the board’s chairman, Donald Wilcenski. “Extend the program but not the diversion of money.”

The board members agreed there’s still much land that needs preserving in town, and they don’t want the program from getting distracted from its goals of protecting it.

Ms. Lanza said the Planning Board members took it upon themselves to weigh in on the matter with a memo.

Legislation being proposed by Assemblyman Fried Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) and state Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) would both extend the program to 2050 and dedicate 20 percent of CPF revenues to clean water efforts.

The single bill includes both provisions and voters would ultimately have to approve the measures through referendum.

“Ultimately, if it passed in the Senate, Assembly and the governor signed it, each of the towns themselves would have to create a local law and that would go to referendum,” Mr. Thiele explained. “It’s not a mandate; it’s a local option for local governments.”
He didn’t rule out the notion of issuing two referendums, one for each of the previsions. But he did take issue with the Planning Board’s stance, and said they should have reached out to him for more information and explanation before taking a public stance.
“I don’t understand why it’s a slippery slope, but everyone’s entitled to their opinion,” he said. “And this is subject to referendum, so the voters would have to decide.”