The East Hampton Town Board has adopted a management and stewardship plan for its Community Preservation Fund, after the town’s mismanagement of its CPF fund helped lead to tighter New York State restrictions requiring that towns account for how CPF money is spent.
The plan was adopted on Friday, January 23, days before the news that the amount East Hampton raised through its CPF fund, with a 2-percent real estate transfer tax, had dropped dramatically to $14.5 million in 2008 from $30 million in 2007.
Given the plummeting number of real estate sales in 2008 and the anticipation that the weakened economy would lead to fewer sales in 2009, the town estimates in its plan that just $10 million will be available in CPF revenues for 2009. It calls for $15 million in bonding against future revenues.
According to the new state regulations, which were enacted after questions arose in 2007 over the town’s use of CPF funds to pay for services that were not directly attributed to land preservation, the town can spend just 10 percent of its annual revenue on management and stewardship.
The budget for the plan is $894,000. Of that amount, $567,000 will be used for historic properties.
The renovation of the Selah Lester house, a historic property on the corner of Cedar and North Main streets that is the town’s priority in the first half of 2009, is slated to cost the town $165,000. Later this year, the town plans to turn its attention to the Amagansett Life Saving Station, at a cost of $147,000. Three carpenters working on those projects are slated to receive $165,000. The plan may also be amended to include upgrades to the former Boys and Girls Harbor camp on Three Mile Harbor, though much of the work on that property is not slated to be completed until 2010.
The town is in contract to purchase the camp, though Town Board members said Friday that Suffolk County, which will pay half the purchase price, has not yet signed the contract.
Dr. Jonathan Korn, a neighbor of the property who helped to gather 500 signatures opposing the purchase, pleaded with the Town Board on Friday to re-examine the deal, which is slated to cost $7.34 million, in light of declining land values.
Dr. Korn decried what he termed an “unprecedented and irresponsible” plan to put a county park in a residential area, and said that 100 motorcycle riders had descended on his neighborhood looking for the park last summer because they believed it was already open to the public.
“The board has discussed it with counsel. I disagree with your representation of the plans,” said Town Board member Pete Hammerle, who said that the park’s use would be for “passive” recreation and added that he would work with Dr. Korn to ensure that a sound system with loudspeakers could not be used on the property.
“We want to be good neighbors. We don’t want to ruin your life,” he said.
Town Attorney John Jilnicki added that, because the town is already in contract on the property, it would be a violation of its legal responsibility to Boys and Girls Harbor owner Anthony Drexel Duke to either attempt to get out of the deal or to pressure the county to not sign the papers.