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Officials & Residents Increase Pressure for State Passage of Blooming Grove Preservation Fund

Updated: Mar 9, 2023

Blooming Grove Town Board (l to r) Deputy Supervisor, Cathy Acevedo, Washingtonville Board Member Tom Devinko, Supervisor Rob Jeroloman

Blooming Grove's Town Board voted last night to approve a letter to be written by Supervisor Rob Jeroloman in response to an offer by Senator James Skoufis to Reintroduce State Bill S1810A for a "Blooming Grove Preservation Fund". The bill will be presented by both Senator James Skoufis and Assemblyman Brian Maher during the State's 2023 legislative session. Town Board members agreed unanimously, Deputy Supervisor Cathy Acevedo pointing out that there were several properties that could have benefited over the past 2 years, but are already either in development or in the approval process.

The bill allows towns to collect a small amount (0.75%) of any real estate sale over $500. Monies in that fund balance can then be used to purchase the development rights of farmland (PDR) with agreement of the farm's owner (the farmer still owns the land, but its future use, usually under a conservation easement, is limited). It can also be used toward open space acquisition, often in concert with the Land Trust or the Open Space Institute.

The bill was presented at legislature during both 2021 and 2022 sessions and passed unanimously, but then veto'd by Governor Andrew Cuomo and again by Governor Kathy Hochul, without explanation and without discussion or meeting with town officials or residents. Since then there has been a public outcry by environmentalists in the town which is losing several of its iconic views. This bill was passed for both Warwick and Goshen (as well as numerous other towns in the state), and has been very successful in those municipalities since the early 2000's in balancing smart growth with protection of farmland.

Susan Blakeney of the Town's Community Preservation Plan Committee

John Daly of the Town's Community Preservation Plan Committee

Two members of the Blooming Grove Preservation Plan Committee spoke in favor of the bill, but also lamented that even if passed this year it will not help preserve several large parcels that are now slated for development. They added that it is critical to protect several others that embody the bucolic character that gave Blooming Grove its name when it was carved from Cornwall. The Town was first settled in the early 1720's and became a Township of Cornwall and then the Town of Blooming Grove in 1799.

A Preservation Fund for Blooming Grover's environmental acquisitions could also aid the environmentally and economically beneficial, as well as tourism-friendly project called the "Schunnemunk Rail Trail", just beginning, that will connect Orange County's Heritage Trail with Schunnemunk Mountain at the Moodna Trestle, Goosepond Park, the Appalachian Trail and eventually the Newburgh Waterfront.

This year, proponents have asked for notice when the bill is expected to go to Governor Hochul's desk so they can go to Albany as a group if necessary and explain why it is so important to ensure the town's health and proper smart growth. In the past some large real estate brokerage companies have lobbied against it, suggesting that it could dull the sales market. However, while the amount is not very significant per sale (0.75%), it would accumulate and could become a definite asset when a parcel is deemed important to protect, as well as a feather in the Town's cap for residential and commercial growth of people who are "environmently alert" along with the local farm industry (several of which are historic).

Project in the Village of South Blooming Grove with retention basin releasing major turbidity. Work continued despite a long string of Cease and Desist orders from DEC over failure to obtain permits.

World renowned hydrogeologists have already pointed out the potential impacts of additional development on the Town's aquifer, which is already showing signs of overuse, and area ecologists emphasize the critical need to keep a cautious eye on additional impacts to it, as well as stormwater drainage. Just this week, Supervisor Jeroloman pointed out that a major development in the works up on Clove Road had drainage basins overflowing and sent drainage turbidity into the Satterly Creek and all the way past Route 208. A string of Cease and Desist orders by the DEC have been ignored by the builder. Additional protection of natural drainage corridors could be attained by passage of this bill.

A real estate sale of $500,000 would entail a $3,750 transfer tax. With a sale of $300,000 the tax would be $2,250. Any accumulated fund balance over years cannot be transferred to any other use.

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