Proceeds into the Peconic Bay Region Community Preservation Fund from a 2-percent real estate transfer tax in the five East End towns totaled more than $95 million last year, more than $28 million above the 2012 total, a 42-percent increase and the second highest annual preservation fund income since its inception in 1999.
In 2007, the strongest year for the fund, revenue totaled just over $96 million.
Based on the 2013 revenue, it is clear “the real estate industry on the East End is in its strongest position since the start of the recession in 2008,” New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. declared in a press release this week. In addition, more money was collected from real estate transfers in December 2013 — a total of $12.6 million — than in any month since the preservation fund was established, another indicator reported by Assemblyman Thiele and New York State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle. Money from the preservation fund is used to purchase farmland, open space, and historic buildings.
The legislators reported that there were 8,328 real estate transactions in the five towns last year, compared with 5,972 in 2012.
Mr. Thiele said in the release that “C.P.F. revenues have more than doubled from 2009 and have shown consistent growth for several years. This is good news for preservation efforts as C.P.F. funds should now be flush with cash, allowing towns to be aggressive in protecting lands for open space, farmland, parks and recreation, and historic preservation purposes.”
In East Hampton Town, 2013 brought close to a 29-percent increase in preservation fund revenue, with a total of just over $28 million flowing in.
The Town of Southampton, with $57 million in revenue for 2013, generated its highest annual revenue in the history of the program, and showed a 52-percent increase over the previous year.
Shelter Island saw the greatest percentage rise from 2012 to 2013 — a 57-percent increase to a total of just over $2 million collected last year.
Riverhead and Southold, the other two towns participating in the land preservation program, saw increases of 16 and 33 percent, for 2013 totals of $2.5 million and $4.8 million, respectively.
Since its inception in 1999, the Pecon ic Bay Region Community Preservation Fund has generated $884.73 million in all five towns — and $244 million in East Hampton for buying and preserving land here, according to Assemblyman Thiele.
The town has also borrowed more than $52 million against future revenues to acquire property while it is still available. As of 2012, $13 million of that had been repaid.
Over the years, East Hampton has used the preservation fund money to protect 1,780 acres — almost 10 acres of historic sites, 142 acres of parks and recreation lands, 957 acres of open space and forest, 117 acres of wetlands, 356 acres of beach or shoreline properties, and 192 acres of farmland.
Among the 235 properties in East Hampton that were purchased outright or protected through the purchase of development rights with money from the community preservation fund are the Springs Park, the West Lake tennis club and Foster farm in Montauk, the former Boys Harbor camp in East Hampton, and the Jacob’s Farm woodland in Springs. Several tracts were protected in joint efforts with the state, county, or private conservation groups.
Annual revenues into the regional fund have fluctuated over the years from a low of $13 million in all five towns in the first year of the fund, to a high of $96 million in 2007. By 2009, the annual total had plunged to just over $40 million. Since then it has consistently climbed, hovering near $58 million in 2010 and 2011, then reaching $66 million in 2012 before making a jump last year.
The state legislation establishing the transfer tax and land fund allows up to 10 percent of the money raised each year to be used for “management and stewardship” of properties, according to an annual budget adopted by the given town board after a public hearing.
At a recent hearing, Scott Wilson, East Hampton Town’s director of land acquisition and management, outlined proposed expenditures for management and stewardship projects this year.
They include the restoration of a historic barn at the former Lester farm on North Main Street in East Hampton, for approximately $150,000, and restoration of a barn at the former Duck Creek farm in Springs, another historic property, also for an estimated $150,000. Also planned is the removal of invasive species and restoration of land along Babe’s Lane in Springs, on Three Mile Harbor, for $9,000.
The total expected to be spent on the projects is less than 2.5 percent of the anticipated annual fund revenue, Mr. Wilson said.