It could be a bright future for land preservation on the East End: The Peconic Bay Community Preservation Fund is breaking records across the board and getting ready to breach the billion-dollar mark.
Total revenues raised from the fund’s creation in 1999 through the end of 2014 are $992.52 million. That means the fund could hit the $1 billion mark when January 2015 revenues are calculated in a few weeks.
Last year, a whopping $107.69 million in revenue was produced in the five East End towns combined, the highest annual total in any year since the fund’s inception, according to a new report issued by State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. The total for 2014 crushes the $95.43 million collected in 2013 and surpasses the previous annual record of $96.02 million set in 2007, before the Great Recession.
In December 2014 alone, the CPF took in $14.43 million—the highest one-month total in the history of the program.
“It is clear that the real estate industry on the East End is in its strongest position since the start of the recession in 2008,” Mr. Thiele said this week in a press release. “CPF revenues have increased by 167 percent since 2009 and have consistently grown for the past five years.”
Annual revenues for all five East End towns last year were up, with Southampton and East Hampton reaching all-time highs. At $64.68 million, Southampton Town’s total jumped 11.9 percent from the $57.79 million collected in 2013, while East Hampton Town’s revenues rose 12.3 percent over last year’s $28.15 million, pulling in $31.62 million.
Riverhead Town’s annual revenue leapt an impressive 32.2 percent, raking in $3.41 million, compared to $2.58 million in 2013. Southold Town totaled $5.78 million in 2014, jumping 18.9 percent over the $4.86 million produced the previous year. Finally, Shelter Island Town drew in $2.20 million, rising 7.3 percent over the $2.05 million collected in 2013.
The CPF tacks on a 2-percent tax on most real estate transfers and is exclusive to the East End. Monies from the tax are put into a fund in each of the five towns that is set aside for open space purchases and in some cases other community uses, like historic preservation.
“The good thing about how the CPF works is that it keeps pace with development. When development and real estate go up and are hot, threatening community character, it’s also generating money at the other end,” Mr. Thiele said on Monday.
As one of the architects of the fund, Mr. Thiele said he never imagined it would generate so much revenue. “When we were working for this bill in 1997 or ’98, we had to provide a fiscal estimate, and our best guess at that time was that for the five towns it would generate $15 million,” he said. In 1999, its first year, the fund collected $13.25 million in the five towns.
Since then, the towns have gone on to spend about $850 million in CPF revenue to purchase and preserve land.
Currently “flush with cash,” the municipalities can continue to actively pursue land protection for open space, farmland, parks and recreation, and historic preservation, he said, noting that protecting water quality, which would involve infrastructure improvements, could be another goal added before the fund is extended in the future.
“We are now well positioned to extend the fund for an additional 20 years and add water to land preservation in our efforts to protect the East End’s community character,” Mr. Thiele said.
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