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Transfer tax could raise $$ for affordable housing

If Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs legislation creating an affordable housing component to the Community Preservation Fund, residents of the five East End towns would see a resolution on the November ballot to opt in or out of collecting an additional 0.5% real estate transfer tax from property buyers.

The money would be designated to create so-called “work force” or affordable housing.

Deputy Supervisor Amber Brach-Williams told the Town Board at Tuesday’s work session that word of the legislation came from Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) at last week’s meeting of the East End Supervisors and Mayors Association.

While the governor had some questions about the legislation sponsored in the Assembly by Mr. Thiele and shepherded through the State Senate by Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), Mr. Thiele said he expects it would be signed by Dec. 28, opening the door to referendums in each of the five towns.

While the 0.5% tax for affordables would be similar to the 2% real estate transfer tax funding purchase of open spaces and water quality improvement projects, it would have a higher threshold before it kicked in for property buyers.

On Shelter Island, East Hampton and Southampton, the tax wouldn’t affect property purchases of less than $500,000. In Southold and Riverhead, the additional tax wouldn’t be assessed on property purchases of less than $280,000.

The existing Community Preservation Fund taxes also have an exemption on purchases under $250,000 on the Island and the two Hamptons towns and $150,000 in Southold and Riverhead.

If the legislation is signed and a referendum is approved, it’s expected the change in exemptions from the transfer tax would lower closing costs, Mr. Thiele said.

Crescent Beach
Councilman Jim Colligan told his colleagues that a conference call Tuesday with the town’s grant writer and others involved with the project to upgrade the bathroom at Crescent Beach has moved that project forward.

Plans now call for using a pump out tank similar to the one in use at Volunteer Park, instead of an I/A nitrogen reducing system. That will avoid interference with a PSEG electrical line in the area.

Contractor Matt Sherman is to make design changes in line with that decision, while the $113,000 50-50 matching grant seems assured of being extended as long as work is going forward, Mr. Colligan said.

He also met with school officials about plans for upgrading tennis courts and creating pickleball courts at the school. Money for the project is to be maintained in the 2020-21 school budget that voters act on in May 2020, Mr. Colligan said.

The Lions Club has indicated interest in helping to upgrade the basketball court with some new nets and there would be fundraising for resurfacing the court, the councilman said.

Mr. Colligan praised Mr. Gerth and Councilman Paul Shepherd who will be leaving office on Jan. 1.

He thanked Mr. Gerth for what he said was a restoration of civility and respect in town government, and initiatives that were achieved or moved forward under the outgoing supervisor’s administration.

The supervisor said before he started his term, he had watched the Town Board and appreciated that they needed a collegial relationship to keep moving forward with one another on the issues. He said he was grateful to his colleagues and Town Clerk Dorothy Ogar for their help in making his two years in office so satisfying.

Mr. Colligan said that while he didn’t always agree with Mr. Shepherd, he thought his colleague had been “a real voice for our community” and noted that the councilman had seldom missed a meeting and demonstrated a strong work ethic. Mr. Shepherd was “never afraid to speak his mind” and Mr. Colligan said he learned a lot from his colleague.

“A lot of it was my pleasure, some of it was my pain,” Mr. Shepherd said, thanking Mr. Colligan for his words.