Funded by a 2-percent tax on most real estate transactions, the CPF is currently used to protect open space, agricultural, historical and recreational resources, and community character in the five East End towns. A November referendum will ask voters to allow as much as 20 percent of revenues—an amount that could be $10 million to $12 million annually in Southampton Town alone—to also be used for water quality projects, in addition to extending the CPF an additional 20 years from its current expiration date in 2030, to 2050.
The regional plan involves all five East End towns and will go before the voters in each town for their approval in November.
At the August 9 Southampton Town Board meeting, State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. praised the town’s efforts in drafting a water quality improvement project plan, a document that will provide a blueprint for how it would use 20 percent of its CPF revenues.
“We’re here because there is no dispute that there is a water quality problem on Long Island,” Mr. Thiele said. “Scientists are telling us that. Frankly, all we have to do is look around us. We have to undertake this problem and show leadership on the local level.”
According to the draft plan, the first priority would be to tackle ineffective septic systems through rebate incentives for voluntary updates. The town would then work to remediate water bodies, followed by working to restore habitat. Possible projects might also focus on alternatives to traditional septic systems, as well as pollution and runoff prevention.
A half dozen residents spoke at the public hearing in favor of the plan, including several members of different citizens advisory committees and the Peconic Baykeeper, Sean O’Neill.
Kevin McAllister, president of Defend H20, said although he supports these water quality efforts, he is concerned about the grandfathering of certain septic systems and suggested that updates become a mandate rather than voluntary.
“To have these systems get into place in the shorter term, there is a need for a mandate,” Mr. McAllister said. “Unfortunately the town is not looking to do that. I don’t feel like we will see these instituted in a timely manner. If it’s purely voluntary, it will take a long time.”
There will be another public hearing on extending and expanding the CPF at a Town Board meeting at 6 p.m. on August 23.