Gardiner’s Preservation Plan Outlines Property Transfer Taxes

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Like many towns in the Hudson Valley, Gardiner is known for its stunning vistas and picturesque surroundings. With more and more people settling in Ulster County, residents of Gardiner are increasingly concerned that overdevelopment will destroy the rural character of their home, along with the species native to it. And according to a recent poll, almost half of them think their government is not doing enough to protect against this possibility.

A community preservation survey released in May found that 47 percent of Gardiner residents believe the city is not doing enough to preserve its natural and cultural resources. Respondents were primarily concerned about overdevelopment, followed closely by loss of rural character and loss of open spaces. More than 75% of the 570 respondents said preserving the grasslands, forests, wildlife habitats and Shawangunk Ridge was their top priority, which is perhaps unsurprising given that Nature Conservancy has it. named “one of the last great places on Earth” for conservation.

Related: 71 acres of Shawangunk Ridge to protect

The investigation was launched as part of Gardiner’s effort to establish a real estate transfer tax, which would require buyers to pay an additional 1.25% on homes above the county’s median home sale price. ‘Ulster, which is $320,000. These revenues would go into a community preservation fund that could be used to purchase land and land interests, such as conservation easements, that provide ecological, historic or scenic value to the city, among other key factors.

Protecting the Shawangunk Ridge was ranked as a top priority for residents. This year, 71 acres of the ridge have been purchased for protection by Mohonk Preserve and The Shawangunk Conservancy.

Courtesy of Mohonk Preserve

At its June meeting, Gardiner City Council voted to approve a Community Preservation Plan (CPP), which calls for the real estate transfer tax. A referendum on the tax will be on the ballots in November. If favored by voters, it will be imposed on new homebuyers from February 2023. Those who already own a Gardiner property will not be required to pay the tax.

Gardiner is following in the footsteps of neighboring New Paltz, which voted overwhelmingly to implement a 1.5% property transfer tax in November 2020. New Paltz was the first municipality in Ulster County to adopt the tax after the Hudson Valley Preservation Act was expanded to include the county in 2019. Even though his plan is in its early stages and its fund is not yet full of money, New Paltz has already been able to purchase a wetland property off Route 299 that protects the city’s water quality, wildlife habitat and aquifer recharge. .

Transfer duties in other municipalities

Since the New Paltz vote, Marbletown and Kingston have also formed community preservation committees to explore real estate transfer taxes in their towns.

Other towns in the Hudson Valley have used transfer taxes for years, including Warwick in Orange County, which since 2007 has acquired about 28 farms, protected 4,300 acres of farms that remain in agriculture, purchased the only public access to Greenwood Lake and recently purchased an 85 hectare Recreation Camp with theatre, pools, hiking trails and cabin.

Similarly, Red Hook in Dutchess County passed a transfer tax in 2011, which raised nearly $5 million and permanently retained 45 farm properties, eight of which were purchased in conjunction with the program. USDA Farm and Ranch Protection Award and Scenic Hudson in 2012.

“What we’ve learned from other communities is that they’re very often able to partner with other conservation organizations, like Open Space Institute, Nature Conservancy, and Scenic Hudson,” said David Dukler, who served as co-chair of Gardiner’s Community. Conservation Committee. “They’re able to get additional funds for what they’ve raised locally through a RETT – that’s also a key factor in how much you have available for preservation.”

Since Gardiner contains the ridge and overlaps the Mohonk Preserve and the Minnewaska State Park Preserve, the city may also have an advantage in raising additional funds.

How the preservation process works

The community preservation committee developed a methodology to prioritize land parcels for funding and acquisition based on a points system intended to reflect community conservation goals. One plot of land may score higher than another based on certain criteria, such as whether it contains highly visible ridges and hills or is located on a historic site. Biological diversity, however, is the top priority.

“We need to preserve our unique biodiversity,” said Councilor Carol Richman. “We talk about climate resilience, we talk about landscapes, we talk about community preservation, historic preservation, but biodiversity is key.”

Gardiner Town Supervisor Marybeth Majestic insisted the town would never come knocking on the doors of landowners looking to buy their property; on the contrary, willing landowners would show a declared interest in having the city purchase a portion of their land for conservation purposes. If acquiring the property is deemed to provide a “city-wide benefit,” an all-volunteer Community Preservation Fund advisory board would recommend that the city council purchase it on Gardiner’s behalf. The council will also hold a public hearing for each purchase, allowing voters to participate in the process.

“Open space is not free,” Majestic said. “Gardiner has always been interested in preserving our natural resources and this will give us a tool to do so.”


Neil Rindlaub, a member of the Gardiner Environmental Conservation Commission who worked on the CPP, said the plan would ideally protect plots high on voters’ list of concerns from destructive development.

“I’m a northern New Jersey transplant and growing up I watched streams that had all kinds of fish, frogs and turtles silting up as they developed,” he said. . “I’ve seen Route 17 and Route 59 in Rockland County become endless strip malls, and my negative motivation is to try to keep Gardiner from becoming another land of endless suburban sprawl. I don’t think you’re alone in this.”

The CPP would not stop development in its tracks, Rindlaub said. Gardiner will continue to welcome new projects and new community members, but will simply drive them away from ecologically valuable land.

According to the CPP, preserving forests, wetlands, floodplains, stream corridors, and modeled areas with above-average resilience for biodiversity should benefit the city’s efforts to adapt to climate change. climate change. Active farms and farmland soils were also seen as important resources contributing to the resilience of communities to the impacts of climate change.

Mountain laurel grows wild on Shawangunk Ridge and is federally protected.

Mountain laurel grows wild on Shawangunk Ridge and is federally protected.

Erin Quinn

Various wildlife habitats are encompassed within the city limits of Gardiner, including the endangered skink and the federally protected mountain laurel. Additionally, the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation has mapped the Shawangunk Kill Corridor, listed as a priority in the Gardiner PSC, as an Important Biodiversity Area for its high water quality.

Although the city is well on its way to conserving these lands, residents can contribute to this effort by initiating conservation efforts and environmental practices in their homes. According to the survey, most residents listed their own backyard as their favorite outdoor location in Gardiner.

“This plan is about buying land and we can’t just buy it all to avoid overdevelopment and keep what’s great about Gardiner,” Richman said. “Private owners must work for preservation. We can’t just buy everything; some of the conservation work should be voluntary…in your own backyard.

The city council is holding three public hearings on the CPP in July, the first of which will take place on July 12.

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