East Hampton Town CPF Revenues Were Up, Spending Was Down In 2013

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The East Hampton Town Community Preservation Fund saw a bump in revenue, bolstered by high-end property sales, though spending on the preservation of new land was limited to less than 30 acres.

According to Scott Wilson, the town’s director of land acquisition and management, the CPF’s collection of transfer taxes brought in $28.8 million—what was the CPF’s second-highest grossing year ever, behind only 2007’s revenue of $31.8 million.

“Transactions were up a little bit, but I have to say there were more higher-end transfers,” he said. He added that “$28.8 million is a big year.”

In 2013, the town spent approximately $5.5 million on five properties. Mr. Wilson said he expects another eight transfers will be added to that number once they close.

The five parcels, which total 28.4 acres in total, are scattered throughout the town: the 4.5-acre Miller-Gates-Meyer property on Springs-Fireplace Road; the 11-acre Dodson, Lawrence and Cochran property, or Brooks Park, on Neck Path in Springs; the 8-acre Austin parcel on Copeces Lane and Springs-Fireplace Road; the Brown property, including four lots of 1 acre each, on Ardsley Road in Wainscott; and the 1-acre McGeehan parcel on East Lake Drive in Montauk.

Mr. Wilson said the Brown lots in Wainscott were particularly interesting because they are essentially located in the gateway to Wainscott—and they were the most expensive purchase at approximately $2 million.

The Brooks Park land in Springs is valuable to the town because it connects two roads, Neck Path to Red Dirt Road, and would create an opportunity for trail links. This property is also important because two artist studios belonging to the late James Brooks and Charlotte Park, who were close friends of Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, are situated there. A small group of Springs residents have been working to save them from demolition.

Mr. Wilson said the Austin parcel is another piece that connects two roads, Three Mile Harbor and Copeces Lane. “Those are opportunities for protecting green space and recreational opportunities,” he said.

Mr. Wilson said the town paid approximately $2.8 million in debt service on earlier CPF purchases, which was cut almost in half from the $4.1 million that was paid in 2012. He said going forward, the CPF will pay about $2.8 million in debt service every year through 2020.

He said administrative costs ran about $200,000, plus $550,000 for stewardship employees’ salaries.

Looking ahead to 2014, Mr. Wilson said there are more properties the CPF is looking to purchase. He said 15 parcels totaling approximately 30 acres, at a cost of $5.1 million, are in the works, two of which were just closed under the new administration.

Town Councilwoman Sylvia Overby, who is liaison to the CPF Advisory Board, said that the money is there to spend.

“For me, the CPF has a contract with the people of East Hampton to say we will spend this money on open space, recreational space and historic properties for the people of East Hampton to use and enjoy,” she said. “That contract isn’t about holding money, it’s about spending it. That’s what it’s there for.”

She said that, in her opinion, the most important land the town could buy is land that would help keep the town’s water clean—for example, properties at the head of Three Mile Harbor in Springs. “All of our aquifers are under stress because of development,” she added. “Sometimes it’s not even development but what people are doing on top of the land that affects the water supply. The CPF Advisory Committee does a lot of work—it’s not looking at a piece that works but finding out what’s on it, how important it is and how it fits into the puzzle.”

Since the town’s CPF was created in 1998, 230 parcels, or 1,781 acres, have been purchased and preserved, and 408 parcels, or 3,558 acres, have been put into nature preserve. There are currently 2,700 vacant parcels left across the town.

Mr. Wilson said approximately $257 million in revenue has come in since then, and about $253 million has been spent.

“We are all spending money as it arrives,” he added. “The five East End towns are collectively at the forefront of preserving land.”

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