Once again, the Community Preservation Fund, its purpose, and the long-term value of land acquisition is in the spotlight.
Bill Wilkinson has suggested that affordable housing suffers because of the magnitude of land preservation.
Town Councilwoman Theresa Quigley defended Wilkinson's intentions. "He said the town has done a good job on preserving the character of the town and needs to address the second one, to provide affordable housing."
A March roundtable of community leaders warned of repercussions of putting the CPF in a bad light. “The worst thing that could happen is to sit on this money and not spend it,” Bob DeLuca, Director, Group for the East End, said.
He was referring to the CPF’s black eye when the former Democratic administration led by Bill McGintee was found to have unlawfully transferred funds from CPF. “Someone thought, ‘Here’s a pile of money.’ They got very creative with the financing and it was a big screw up,” DeLuca said. Subsequently, Assemblyman Fred Thiele and Senator Ken Lavalle tightened the law so that moving money from the CPF could never happen again.
Scott Wilson, director of the Department of Land Acquisition and Management, is confident that valuable purchases are taking place on schedule. Three are in the final stages. “Boys Harbor will close at the end of the month, a 28-acre parcel,” he said. The land was the Boys and Girls Harbor camp for many years, sponsored by Tony Duke and his wife.
The other parcels are the 26-acre Nivola property in Springs between Old Stone Highway and Barnes Hole which “may close in September," and the Curtis property, 28 acres off Swamp Road, to be preserved “within two months.”
“Appraisals are coming in 30 to 40 percent lower than three years ago,” DeLuca said. “So for once, we have money—$20 million last year and $10 million this year. The public should say, ‘We don’t want the money to sit idling.’"
"We did slow up in the past because of the audit we were having done for the State and others," Quigley said in a recent interview.
East Hampton has raised roughly $200 million since the creation of the fund, and preserved about 1,600 acres and 200 properties (see ehland.org for a detailed map of preserved land), according to DeLuca. Funded by a tax to the buyer of property over $250,000, CPF raises from $10 million to $30 million a year.
Preserved land makes all property in the town more valuable, according to Phalen Wolf, a local realtor who was recently elected to the Amagansett school board. “Preserving open space has been the best financial deal that citizens have. The natural beauty enhances all our property.”