BEDFORD. N.Y. — Bedford residents will be asked on the November ballot whether they support maintaining the town’s open space tax while lowering it from 3 percent to 1 percent, or, alternatively, getting rid of it altogether.
In anticipation of November’s referendum, the Bedford Town Board invited two members of the town’s Open Space Committee to its meeting Tuesday to help explain their support for keeping the town’s open space fund going.
Committee Chair George Bianco and member Glenn Ticehurst presented five properties the fund has purchased over the years, which comprise 71 acres in all three hamlets. The total value of the protected assets is $4.2 million.
Bianco, who is also on Westchester Land Trust’s Board of Directors, said the goals of the open space acquisition program are to maintain and enhance the rural character of the town while preserving environmentally sensitive and historically important areas. The fund protects Bedford’s four watersheds, promotes habitat and climate protection and preserves large areas of land with high development potential.
Since it was formed in 2000, Bianco said, the open space fund has received about $3.5 million from the town and $600,000 in donations from private citizens and from the Department of Environmental Protection.
Ticehurst said the 3 percent open space tax levy represents about $60 per year per household. If it is cut to 1 percent, the levy will go down to $20.
“We’re taking a haircut like everybody else, but to have the fund in place, to be able to partner with the other organizations, we think it’s an important thing to do,” Ticehurst said.
So far, with the help of various partners such as the Westchester Land Trust and the DEP, the fund has purchased the Tom Burke Preserve, Zima Farms, Leatherman’s Ridge, Vernon Hills and the Ridge Road property, and has a pending transaction on the 20-acre Twin Lakes property, which contains a tributary to Mianus River watershed.
Board member Frances Corcoran said voters should consider that protecting this land leads to an increase in value for all the other town’s properties.
“I think that aspect of it is really how it comes home to people and what it means to them,” he said.
The board will soon send a letter to the community’s taxpayers voicing its support for maintaining a tax that is, according to town board member Chris Burdick, “a small investment to pay for an extremely important objective.”