Legislation Sponsored To Protect Suffolk’s Open Space
By Vanessa B. Streeter – (From the office of County Executive Bellone)
In response to legislation sponsored by Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn in 2012, the Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Planning has presented recommendations to the Legislature’s Environment Planning and Agricultural Committee (EPA) to maximize limited taxpayer dollars and protect open space.
“Legislator Hahn’s initiative strengthens Suffolk County’s land preservation program by prioritizing the best use of taxpayer dollars,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “The open space program is a critical part of protecting Suffolk’s identity and our environment for future generations. I am pleased that we now have recommendations to make the most cost effective and environmentally sound choices possible with our limited funds.”
During the most recent EPA Committee meeting, chaired by Legislator Hahn, Suffolk County Planning Director Sarah Lansdale presented an evaluation of the county’s “master list process” and offered seven key recommendations.
According to Legislator Hahn, “Prioritizing our remaining open space acquisition to promote climate resilience, protect water quality, and address flood prone areas makes perfect sense. I thank the Department of Economic Development and Planning for providing this blueprint, which will greatly inform Suffolk County’s decision making process going forward.”
Key recommendations include:
- Further prioritize acquisitions that promote climate resilience and water protection, with flood prone areas, watershed habitats, wetlands and the Pine Barrens core receiving priority;
- Target future County open space acquisitions on the Master List;
- Open Space parcels outside the new comprehensive Master List can be nominated throughout the year by the Legislature, will be reviewed every six months;
- Limit/Modify Planning Steps language to accept the appraised value as determined by the Environmental Trust Review Board;
- Limit/Modify Planning Steps to compare total appraised value to funds available and present this info to members of the EPA Committee;
- On an annual basis, receive input from municipal partners, legislators, and environmental organizations regarding potential acquisition parcels for future consideration to create an acquisition “envelope;”
- presentation of parcels in negotiation to the EPA committee;
- List of all parcels with rating;
- Status of available parcels
Since 1977, Suffolk County has spent $950 million and purchased more than 60,000 acres of land to preserve important environmental resources and farmland. In 2007, following a referendum, the County accelerated use of the existing Drinking Water Protection Program, which funds open space acquisition through a percentage of the ¼% sales tax. In 2012 alone, Suffolk County preserved more than 944 acres, both open space and farmland.
The recently presented Open Space Report evaluated all properties on the County’s four master lists, identifying those already acquired by the County, properties preserved by other entities, such as New York State and local municipalities, and properties that have been developed or are no longer recommended for acquisition. All properties were ranked using an environmental rating system already applied to other open space acquisitions.
The final detailed master list report is available online at: http://www.suffolkcountyny.gov/Portals/0/planning/OpenSpaceFarmland/OpenSpace/CMLU12_FINAL.pdf