Property Rights Foundation of America®
Founded 1994

OPINION

Monday, December 27, 1999
The Post Star 792-3131

LETTERS

Wetlands stance commendable
Editor:
Your Dec. 5 editorial, "State must compensate for wetlands," is to be applauded. The state DEC is reducing property value by merely designating land as "wetland" and "buffer zone." Much of these areas are not swamps at all but overzealous designations by the DEC. Assemblyman Robert Prentiss' legislative proposals for the state to compensate individuals recognize that "regulatory takings" are indeed takings of private property by the government for a public use and subject to the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that requires compensation for takings.

As a Stony Creek tax assessor, I am required by the law to consider every facet that affects value. Wetland designations could well be the most prominent influence on value, exceeding more standard considerations of frontage, lot shape, location and zoning.

The first step that I have used in this process is to plot all the wetlands on the town tax maps. The location of wetland on a lot can greatly determine the usefulness of the entire lot. To my knowledge, I am the only assessor in Warren County to have done this.

DEC wetland designations are statewide and extensive throughout each town. These wetland designations, which Saratoga County landowners are discovering can make land unsellable, are created by the state itself, and it is the state that bears a special responsibility for fairness in compensation and in assuring fair assessment administration. Although specifically required by law, DEC however, has failed in this regard since wetlands were first designated more than 20 years ago.-Taxpayers are now questioning wetland assessments. Assemblyman Prentiss' legislative plan addresses these issues through the following steps:

These measures would assure that the wetland portion of an assessment is not buried within the assessment of the whole lot, and they assure that the landowner can appeal through an inexpensive, taxpayer-friendly process. These measures would also provide a basis for determining state reimbursement to the municipality for tax base loss due to wetland designations.

Assemblyman Prentiss' legislative proposals are not popular with the state bureaucracy that is responsible for these very abuses. These proposals spotlight the true nature of a vast taking of private property and depletion of land potential and value.

These proposals will not happen unless the citizens of the state forcefully support these measures. All property owners should write to their Assembly member and state Senator urging them to support Assemblyman Robert Prentiss' four proposals for wetland justice.

Peter LaGrasse
Stony Creek

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