Cuomo signs bill allowing Ulster towns, villages to raise conservation funds

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill on Friday that enables Ulster County towns and villages to tax property sales and use the proceeds to buy land or development rights as a conservation measure.

The legislation, sponsored by Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston, and Sen. Jen Metzger, D-Rosendale, simply added the word “Ulster” to a 2007 law that gave towns and villages in Westchester and Putnam counties the ability to create “community preservation funds” that they replenish with income from real estate transfer taxes. Voters must approve the tax in a referendum for a municipality to impose it.

“This legislation is about giving Ulster communities the tools to safeguard their unique natural, historic, agricultural, and scenic resources for the benefit of current and future generations,” Metzger said in a statement after the bill signing. “Having worked at the local level in Ulster County for many years to protect open space and support our local farms, I am thrilled to partner with Assemblymember Cahill in providing this important opportunity to local governments for this purpose, and thank the Governor for recognizing the need to protect our irreplaceable Hudson Valley resources.”

Cahill called the bill “an important step forward in helping our local governments preserve open space, develop the tools needed to make housing more affordable and to responsibly plan for a sustainable future.”

The legislation was similar to a proposal Cuomo recently vetoed that applied solely to the Town of Chester in Orange County, and would have given that town the ability to tax property sales for a conservation fund if voters approved. In that case, Cuomo said his objection was the allegation in a federal lawsuit that the bill’s purpose was to block housing development for Hasidic families.

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