A robust housing sales market has the Southampton Town Community Preservation Fund flush with so much cash that the Town Board plans to forgo an approved $30 million bond to bolster land preservation efforts.
Town officials say that the fund has taken in enough this year to complete all the purchases they had planned or that were in the pipeline and earmarked for the $30 million in bond revenue.
Through the end of June, the town CPF had taken in $26 million from a 2-percent tax on most real estate transactions. With some of the busiest months of the year still to come with the fall season, the town is projecting total CPF revenue of $43 million by year’s end, with a chance it will be significantly higher, Town Comptroller Len Marchese said.
“The fund is doing well enough that, coupled with the timing of closings and cash on hand, we think we are in really good shape to meet our goals without any additional borrowing” town CPF Manager Mary Wilson said. “Currently, we have about $25 million in accepted offers and commitments, 20 properties or deals, and we have another $16.3 million in offers out on four properties that the owners of which could still say yes to.”
Nonetheless, the bond, which the Town Board authorized last year, can be held in reserve if a highly desired acquisition opportunity comes up unexpectedly. The town could access any or all of the $30 million within 60 days, Ms. Wilson said.
The $30 million bond was a first careful step by the Town Board toward a total proposed bonding of $125 million the town believes it could borrow in the short term and pay back with the revenues from the CPF for the next 10 years. Borrowing against future income from preservation taxes is a practice that has been used extensively by other towns and Suffolk County to aggressively preserve land that could be lost to development if municipalities waited to compile revenues over time.
In all, the town has some 1,900 acres of land on its target priority list, those parcels it sees as crucial to preserve from residential and commercial development to prevent overbuilding and protect important environmental, cultural and groundwater recharge lands.
Among the acquisitions the town has in the pipeline are the 32-acre Bailey’s Motel property in Westhampton and a collection of barrier beach and low-lying waterfront parcels in Tiana and Flanders that were targeted for acquisition in the wake of Superstorm Sandy to remove development from flood plains.