[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Board of the Town of Clarence 7-23-1997 by L.L. No. 3-1997. Amendments noted where applicable.]
This chapter hereinafter shall be known and cited as the "Conservation Easement Law of the Town of Clarence," Local Law No. 3 of 1997.
It is the purpose of this chapter to provide for the acquisition of interests or rights in real property for the preservation of open space and areas which shall constitute a public purpose for which public funds may be expended or advanced after due notice and a public hearing, by which the Town of Clarence may acquire by purchase, gift, grant, bequest, devise, lease or otherwise the fee or any lesser interest, development right, easement, covenant or other contractual right necessary to acquire open space or open area as the same is defined in § 8-5 herein.
In accordance with § 247 of the General Municipal Law of the State of New York, the Town Board of the Town of Clarence has the authority to acquire such interests or rights in land. Pursuant to the above authority, the Town Board has prepared and adopted this chapter setting forth standards to be followed in the acquisition of such interest.
This chapter shall apply to the entire area of the Town of Clarence.
For the purpose of this chapter, the terms used herein are defined as follows:
- NATURAL RESOURCES
- Any physical material that naturally occurs within a spatial boundary that may include, but not be limited to, mineral deposits, soil, water, trees, air and plant or animal habitat and species.
- OPEN SPACE or OPEN AREA
- Any space or area characterized by natural scenic beauty or whose existing openness, natural condition or present state of use, if retained, would enhance the present or potential value of abutting or surrounding lands or would maintain or enhance the conservation of natural resources.
Application. Any owner or owners of land may submit a proposal to the Town Board for the granting of interest or rights in real property for the preservation of open space or areas. Such proposal shall be submitted in such manner and form as may be prescribed by the Town and shall include a survey map and description of the proposed area. The applicant shall pay to the Town a nonrefundable fee established by the Town Board to cover the costs of administration.
Review by Conservation Advisory Council. Upon receipt of an application, the Planning and Zoning Department shall refer the proposal to the Conservation Advisory Council. The Conservation Advisory Council shall investigate the area to determine if the proposal would benefit the Town of Clarence and may review the terms and conditions of the offer. The Conservation Advisory Council shall present its findings to the Town Board. The Town Board shall hold a public hearing to determine whether or not to accept such proposal.
Acceptance criteria. The Conservation Advisory Council will review applications based on the following criteria:
Wetlands and floodplains: lands that are significantly located (more than 50%) within a floodplain or a state or federal wetland area.
Trees: parcels that are significantly covered with mature or maturing forest and woodland area.
Wildlife habitat: any parcel of land that is utilized as a wildlife habitat which may include, but not be limited to, white-tailed deer wintering areas, hawk migration sites and fish spawning areas, or provides a buffer for such areas.
Agricultural lands: lands on which active farming is currently taking place, or those lands that include soils that are considered prime agricultural soils.
Unique areas: land possessing naturally occurring topographical differences, endangered plant or animal species, geological significance or historical significance.
Greenways/buffers: lands that connect to other conservation easement areas, public park lands or areas that could be included in a conservation easement, or those that provide a buffer to such areas.
Water: those areas that contain some body of water that could include, but not be limited to, a creek, river, lake or pond.
Parcel size: conservation easements must equal or exceed 10 acres in area unless they link other conservation easements over 10 acres.
Public hearing by Town Board. The Town Board shall, within 30 days of receipt of the findings of the Conservation Advisory Council, schedule a public hearing concerning such proposal. Notice of the time and place of such hearing shall be published in a paper of general circulation in the Town, and a written notice of such proposal shall be given to all adjacent property owners, to any municipality whose boundaries are within 500 feet of the proposed area and to the school district in which it is located.
Determination by Town Board.
Adoption of easement. The Town Board, after receiving the findings of the Conservation Advisory Council and after such public hearing, may adopt the proposal or any modification thereof it deems appropriate or may reject it in its entirety.
Recording. If such easement agreement is adopted by the Town Board, it shall be executed by the parties in written form suitable for recording in the Erie County Clerk's office.
After lands are placed in a conservation easement, the valuation placed upon such area for purposes of real estate taxation shall take into account and be limited by the future use of the land. A conservation easement granted in perpetuity by this chapter will allow for maximum exemption under the terms and conditions of the easement agreement.
Removal of trees. No trees in a conservation easement shall be removed or disturbed, except as provided in the easement agreement.
Construction. No construction shall be allowed on any lands within a conservation easement, except as provided in the easement agreement.
Dumping or filling. No dumping or filling shall be allowed on lands within a conservation easement, except as provided in the easement agreement.
Excavations. No excavations shall be allowed on any lands within a conservation easement, except as provided in the easement agreement.
Violation. If there is a violation of the terms or conditions of the conservation easement agreement, then the property owner or owners must repay taxes granted abatement under and pursuant to the conservation easement agreement as follows: any easement violated before its 11th year will be subject to a return of five years of abated taxes; an easement violated between the 11th and 15th year will be subject to a return of four years of abated taxes; an easement violated in its 16th year or later will be subject to a return of three years of abated taxes. Said taxes shall include state, county, town, school district and all special improvement districts and other taxing units to which the property is subject. There shall also be a penalty of six-percent interest of abated taxes compounded annually, payable to the Town of Clarence.
Cancellation. If cancellation is granted by the Town Board, the owner or owners must repay taxes granted abatement under and pursuant to the conservation agreement as follows: any easement canceled before its 11th year will be subject to a return of five years of abated taxes; an easement canceled between the 11th and 15th year will be subject to a return of four years of abated taxes; an easement canceled in its 16th year or later will be subject to a return of three years of abated taxes. Said taxes shall include the state, county, town, school districts and all special improvement districts and other taxing units to which the property is subject.
Conservation reserve fund. Any penalties obtained from a violation of an easement agreement shall be deposited into a conservation reserve fund as described in § 6-c of General Municipal Law.