New Study Underscores Value of Open Space Protection in the Mid-Hudson Valley

For Immediate Release: August 15, 2018

Contact: Dani Simons, [email protected], (203) 980-8820

 

New Study Underscores Value of Open Space Protection in the Mid-Hudson Valley

Project quantifies value of open space to local economies, water protection, climate mitigation and providing recreation opportunities for local communities
 

Estimates benefits of open space in the Mid-Hudson Valley
to region is over $3.5 billion,

two-thirds of which is at risk for development
 

Despite recent scrutiny of impact of non-profit land trusts on local tax base, study finds the land they own represents less than 1% of all exempt property value in the Mid-Hudson Valley

 

NEW YORK— Today Regional Plan Association announced the release of a new multi-year study “Adding Value: Open Space Conservation in the Mid-Hudson Valley” which was researched and written in partnership with researchers from SUNY New Paltz. The four-county study area of Putnam, Duchess, Orange and Ulster counties are among the region’s richest in terms of open space and natural resources.

The project quantifies the value of open space including the savings these lands provide by filtering water, protecting nearby communities from flooding, as well as the revenue they generate by attracting tourism and tourism dollars, and providing fresh food to the region.  
 

The study found that:

  • The open space in these communities provides benefits including water filtration, flood mitigation, pollination and more, saving over $3.5 billion in costs we should otherwise spend to provide these services.

  • These open spaces also boost the area’s tourism economy and provide $209 million of food and other agricultural products annually.

  • Two-thirds of open space in these counties is not currently protected, and therefore at risk of development.

  • Protected land owned by land trusts represents only 1% of the value of all tax-exempt land in the Mid-Hudson Valley, and at the regional level does not have a large impact on the municipal tax base
     

Voters authorized local funds for land preservation in the Mid-Hudson Valley a dozen times between 2000-2008, but there have been no new measures on the ballot since then as concerns have grown about the impact of land preservation on the local tax base, including negative impacts on local tax cap thresholds.

RPA and SUNY New Paltz conducted this research to inform the debate about the large economic as well as social benefits of open space versus the impact of land conservation on local tax revenues. The project also suggests local policies and legislative fixes to ensure that local communities understand the full benefits of land preservation and that the state, recognizing the dispersed nature of some of these benefits, is also doing its part to mitigate impacts on  local tax bases.

“The Mid-Hudson Valley is a beautiful and desirable place to live and visit, defined by its vast and connected open space,” said Robert Freudenberg, Vice President for Energy & Environment at Regional Plan Association. “By fully understanding the value that open space affords in balance with fair and transparent tax-exemption practices, the Mid-Hudson can continue to be one of the region’s most treasured places.”      

“We will continue to see increased development pressure in our region that will impact the quality of our land, air, and water,” said KT Tobin, the lead researcher on the project from SUNY New Paltz. “If we are to continue to benefit from open space and ensure future lands are protected, we need to raise awareness of its substantial value. Commitment is needed not only to protect open space, but also to productive farmland that creates economic and open space synergies. This project seeks to nurture shared understanding and commitment, suggests improvements in state and local policies, and demonstrates how we may more fairly share the cost of sustaining open space for our posterity.”

Key recommendations of the report include:

  1. Track indicators of open space value

  2. Prioritize protection of land that is most critical for adapting to climate change

  3. Adopt smart growth policies that concentrate growth in downtowns and town centers

  4. Revise the tax cap formula to remove disincentives for municipalities to bond for open space protection

  5. Administer and report on the STAR program separately from actual property tax exemption programs

  6. Amend state law to make impact of exemptions more transparent

  7. Require annual state comptroller reporting of newly adopted tax exemptions and their impact

  8. Adopt and implement a consistent, systematic state policy regarding payments made to localities to relieve their burden of both undeveloped and developed exempt properties

  9. Take responsibility at the state level for local effects of state policy

This study is a report of RPA’s Fourth Regional Plan.

About Regional Plan Association

Regional Plan Association is an independent, not-for-profit civic organization that develops and promotes ideas to improve the economic health, environmental resiliency and quality of life of the New York metropolitan area. We conduct research on transportation, land use, housing, good governance and the environment. We advise cities, communities and public agencies. And we advocate for change that will contribute to the prosperity of all residents of the region. Since the 1920s, RPA has produced four landmark plans for the region, the most recent was released in November 2017. For more information, please visit www.rpa.org or fourthplan.org.

 

###