The Land Use Committee of the Scarsdale Village Board of Trustees met on Wednesday December 8 to continue the discussion on the establishment of an Open Space Fund to allow the Village to purchase selected properties and safeguard them from development. The meeting began with a presentation from Village staff, which addressed the creation of a fund. Upon completion of the presentation, the trustees had a discussion and then opened the floor to the public to voice their comments.
Here are a few of the highlights of the presentation, titled “Community Preservation Fund and Real Estate Transfer Tax Report,”
• In order to establish a Community Preservation Fund, an Open Space Advisory Board and impose a Real Estate Transfer Tax to fund it, the Board of Trustees would need to adopt a resolution and hold a mandatory referendum.
• The Community Preservation Fund would be used to preserve community character by acquiring an interest in real property, establish a bank of development rights and for management and stewardship of the program.
• An Advisory Board would be established to review and make recommendations on proposed acquisitions. The Board would consist of five to seven members with experience in conservation and land preservation, who are not already serving on another town board.
• A Community Preservation Project Plan would be required to list every parcel under consideration for acquisition with a detailed evaluation of available land use alternatives, and prioritization for preservation. This plan could be amended at any time in the 60-day period before the referendum and would need to be updated once every five years.
• Selection criteria for properties to be preserved include ecological importance, protection from flooding or use as a water resource, distinctive character, park or recreational value, important landscapes, capacity for public use and enjoyment, preservation of native biological diversity, passive use and preservation of culture.
• The current list of parcels for consideration include: Scarsdale’s Woman’s Club, the Church on Murray Hill and Post Roads, Fenway Golf Club, Ramsey Farm, Boulder Brook, Parlato Property, Quaker Ridge Golf Course, and the gas station on the corner of Post and Popham Roads.
• A Real Estate Transfer Tax of up to 2% of the amount above the median sale price of a Scarsdale home would be imposed and paid by the purchasers of homes in Scarsdale.
• The timeline for the establishment of an Open Space Fund includes committee meetings on draft proposals, public hearings, and adoption of the local law and plan by a vote. Pending approval, there would be a village wide referendum.
In the discussion many of the trustees, pointed out issues with the plan, and concurred that this project might not received the necessary public support. Trustee Flisser expanded upon this concern by acknowledging that the public may turn the proposed plan down, taking away time and energy that could have gone towards a more viable project.
Lynne Clark, a Scarsdale resident, real estate broker and member of the Conservation and Advisory Council, said that though she liked the idea of the preservation fund, she would not support the Real Estate Transfer Tax.
Commenting on the fund and the meeting Clark said, “As a member of the Conservation Advisory Council, I am an advocate for the preservation of open space. However, I am not in favor of taxing buyers to build up a fund to do so. If in the future our Village Trustees feel this is a top priority, the expense should be shared by all the residents of the Village. It seems to me that a few new residents to our community should not have to bear the brunt of raising funds for the enjoyment of the many who already live here. It is not fair, in my opinion. In principle, as an experienced real estate broker at Houlihan Lawrence, I felt also that in this economy and with our housing market slowly easing out of a decline, it was not an appropriate time to put an additional transfer tax burden on Scarsdale buyers. Buyers today are looking for the best value and are searching everywhere. Our prices and taxes are already among the highest in the County and State. To maintain a stable real estate market here, we need to remain competitive with other fine Westchester communities who do not have such a tax. I think our hard working Trustees have made the right decision for this time and place."
The Board decided to postpone the issue for later discussion and to consider doing a survey of residents to assess support for an Open Space Fund. The Board concluded that they needed to get a feel for community sentiment before moving forward. Read the report in its entirety on the Village website.
Kids’ B.A.S.E: In other news from Village Hall, the Village Law Committee met with representatives of Kids’ B.A.S.E. of Scarsdale on Wednesday December 7th to discuss plans to build extra classrooms in the interior courtyard and as well as a playground on the perimeter of their site facing Saxon Woods.
The extra classrooms would allow the school to create a proper library and a resource/discovery center. It was made clear that these plans, specifically the playground, would in no way infringe on the Saxon Woods property and that the new facilities will provide a safe environment for the children. Trustee Toder asked the attendees if there were any downsides to the plan and no objections or comments to his question were voiced. Since the Board of Trustees determined that their interests are protected by the plan, the committee unanimously decided to support the building improvements.