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Legislative Update
April 18, 2001

SENATOR OWEN H. JOHNSON INTRODUCES BILL FOR
TAX ABATEMENT FOR WETLANDS PROPERTY OWNERS

Parallel bill introduced in the Assembly by Assemblyman Robert G. Prentiss

The prominent Long Island Senator Owen H. Johnson introduced a bill on April 17 to provide real property tax abatement for land subject to New York State freshwater wetland regulation. The Senate bill directs that the local assessing unit base the assessed value of freshwater wetlands on the uses remaining to the landowner, pursuant to rules and regulations to be promulgated by the State Office of Real Property Services. Senator Johnson (R, C—Babylon) is Senate Vice President Pro Tempore.

Senator Johnson requires in his bill that the State Office of Real Property Services create a statewide standard application form for the tax abatement. This form would include all of the information needed by the local assessing unit to determine the amount of the tax abatement for the freshwater wetland.

The Senator's bill also relieves the local taxing jurisdiction of the impact on the tax base of wetland designations by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The bill requires that the total real property tax savings in each local tax authority pursuant to the new law becomes a state charge that is reimbursed to localities by the DEC pursuant to a procedure that will be established by the State Office of Real Property Services.

Assemblyman Robert G. Prentiss, who for over two years has led the charge to reform State wetlands law in response the outcry by property owners after the DEC re-mapped wetlands in Saratoga County, introduced legislation in March for tax abatement for owners of freshwater wetlands. After the completion of amendments to the Prentiss proposal, which are currently underway, Assemblyman Prentiss's bill (A. 5938) will be parallel to the one submitted by Senator Johnson.

The legislation was prompted by the DEC's overzealous re-mapping of wetlands in 1999, which added wetlands restrictions to over 4,200 parcels in Saratoga County. For two years, Assemblyman Prentiss has been gathering support in the Legislature for fair treatment for wetland property owners.

In early March, many of the area Legislators joined Assemblyman Prentiss to introduce a package of five bills for tax abatement, wetlands homeowners relief, compensation, and a fairer appeal process. A number of other Assembly Members representing districts around the state are also co-sponsoring the bills.

Legislators have received many complaints that even though the use of private property is greatly restricted by DEC's determination of jurisdictional wetlands, the taxes on the property are seldom reduced, because there is no state guidance for a uniform, statewide procedure. The words, "All that I can do with my property is to pay taxes on it," are often heard at local wetlands meetings and rallies.

Last year, homeowners and farmers concerned with protecting wetland property owners in Saratoga County organized a formal task force, whose president is Patty Venditti of Galway. In 1999, the Property Rights Foundation of America inaugurated its New York Wetlands Justice Project to educate citizens about the need for fair treatment for wetland landowners.

The full text of the bills can be viewed on the New York State Assembly web page: http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/

Or the New York State Senate web page : http://www.senate.state.ny.us/

Names of State Legislature committee members are also available on that web page.

Action Items:

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