Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Community Conservation Fund (Green Fund) Gets Boost from Environment Committee

Here is a message from our Senior Director of Science and Conservation and Conservation Advocate, Milan Bull:

The Environment Committee voted yesterday (5/17/11) to make significant changes to SB 1019 that effectively inserts the language of the Community Conservation Fund bill and replaces the onerous language in SB 1019. The former language of SB 1019 concerned changes in the DEP permitting process that reduced the time (by 1/2) allowed for DEP to process permits, allowing for automatic approval of projects without permits if the new time frame is not met. This language could have resulted in a significant loss of environmental protections.

The new SB 1019 allows municipalities (but does not require them) to place a fee on buyers of real estate, to be placed in a dedicated local “Conservation Fund.”

This fund would be used for conservation projects (open space, clean air, farmland and water projects), and also historic preservation and energy conservation projects. This aids many communities who currently must pay for these projects with property taxes that are already overburdening. SB 1019 would permit a maximum buyer fee of 1% of the real estate purchase price, with the first $150,000 waived to lessen the impact on affordable housing.

This could raise as much as $96 million for local conservation efforts, as well as generate thousands of jobs throughout the state with no increase to the state budget.

This is not a new state tax. Passage of the bill would generate no income unless and until communities decide to enact the legislation locally.

Co-chairs of the Environment Committee, Senator Meyer and Representative Roy, are to thank for changing this bill for the better.

Before this bill comes to a vote in the Senate, it will likely be assigned to the Planning and Development Committee.

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