3. Land Acquisition Policy


3.1 The role of acquisition in Central Pine Barrens protection

All undeveloped properties within the Core Preservation Area contribute to the protection and preservation of the ecologic and hydrologic functions of the pine barrens. Acquisition of land is an essential component of this Plan if the conservation objectives are to be met. Many properties will be of such ecological or hydrological importance that government or private conservation agencies may wish to acquire fee title for management purposes.

It is a goal of this Plan to advocate the use of fee simple acquisition as the principal protection measure - the tool of choice - for the majority of the privately held, undeveloped and currently unprotected lands within the Core Preservation Area. Acquisition of the full interest in conservation, park, preserve and recreational lands provides a secure foundation for management, recreation and resource protection.

Specifically, it is this Plan's long range goal that 75% of the privately held, undeveloped and currently unprotected lands within the Core Preservation Area be protected through acquisition. The Commission recognizes that achieving this goal is dependent upon the availability of public funds. This chapter looks at the acquisition record to date, and examines various scenarios which could bring pine barrens protection close to this goal.
 

3.2 Selected criteria for fee title acquisitions within the Core Preservation Area

A partial listing of factors that might be considered in planning and prioritizing acquisition parcels includes:
 


A complete and final listing of all criteria that might be considered in selecting an acquisition is neither practical nor desirable. Circumstances may change, and new considerations, not anticipated now, may provide compelling arguments for an acquisition. Also, each acquiring agency will assign different weights to these criteria. For example, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation might consider the importance of an area for recreational purposes, while a private not for profit organization, such as The Nature Conservancy, might be interested in the ecological importance of an acquisition.
 

3.3 Land acquisition maps prepared for this analysis

The following land acquisition related maps were created for the Commission by the Suffolk County Water Authority Policy and Planning Department for this analysis. (The full sized versions of these are included in this document by reference, as the originals are 70 by 33 inches.)
 


The remaining land within the Core Preservation Area, approximately 14,000 acres, is developed with housing, agriculture, roads, community service facilities and other uses. See Figure 3-2.
 

3.4 Suffolk County acquisition program

Suffolk County, the largest single owner of public property in the Central Pine Barrens Core Preservation Area, has committed to a number of Core Preservation Area property acquisitions. The Suffolk County Legislature Resolution Number 1685-93 lists nearly 50 parcels. The County has committed $10 million from the Drinking Water Protection Fund for pine barrens acquisitions such as these, and, as of this writing, five acquisitions on this list have been achieved.

Suffolk County also has obtained $180,000 through the federal Intermodal Surface Transportation Enhancement Act (ISTEA) for acquisitions in the Manorville Hills area. This money will be augmented by the County from the acquisition funds discussed above.
 

3.5 New York State acquisition program

The 1994-95 fiscal year budget for New York State includes $10 million for Central Pine Barrens Core Preservation Area acquisitions. In each of the calendar years 1997 through 1999, an additional 2 million dollars will be available for further acquisitions. This latter funding is from a natural resources damages settlement arising from a major oil spill on Long Island. These funds are made available from the Natural Resources Damages Account, which is administered by the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, serving as Trustee of the Fund.

A number of parcels have been identified and targeted for acquisition with this and future state funding. The set of parcels shown on the maps is neither final nor exhaustive. Other parcels might be considered, and parcels shown here may not be purchased. New York State DEC has also obtained $160,000 from the ISTEA program for acquisitions near Pleasure Drive in the Flanders areas of Southampton.

The Natural Resources Damages Account also provided $5 million in state funding to capitalize the transfer of development rights clearinghouse for the Pine Barrens Credit Program (see Chapter 6), protecting Core Preservation Area acreage in addition to the direct acquisition programs discussed in this chapter.
 
 

Figure 3-1: Public domain lands in the Pine Barrens
Figure 3-2: Private undeveloped parcels in the Pine Barrens

(Please see printed version of Plan.)




3.6 Suffolk County Water Authority Core Preservation Area holdings

The Suffolk County Water Authority, an independent state chartered public authority, has acquired approximately 176 acres within the Central Pine Barrens, 81.7 acres within the Compatible Growth Area and 94.3 acres within the Core Preservation Area. Some of the acquisitions now contain public water supply wells, some are sites for future wells, and some were acquired as part of its watershed protection land acquisition program.

Following the passage of the Pine Barrens Protection Act, the Authority took the lead in making acquisitions within the Core Preservation Area by purchasing 35.5 acres of vacant land on East Bartlett Road in Middle Island for $6,000 per acre. This acquisition may serve as a benchmark for subsequent acquisitions by the State and County. Through efforts such as these, the Authority is committed to providing high quality drinking water for the residents of Suffolk County.
 

3.7 Future acquisitions by public agencies

The agencies listed here, with the exception of Riverhead Town, already own vacant property within the Core Preservation Area. Several of them have active open space acquisition programs that have recently purchased property which is now within the Core Preservation Area. Some of these entities are likely to acquire and hold title to additional property in this area. They include:
 

3.8 Future acquisitions by private, not for profit organizations

Private not for profit organizations have historically purchased property, or provided assistance for property acquisitions by public agencies, for preservation purposes within the Central Pine Barrens Core Preservation Area. The Nature Conservancy is one such example.
 

3.9 Status of Core Preservation Area protection efforts and future needs

Approximately 24,500 acres of the Core Preservation Area are already in public or private conservation ownership. Since 1960, Suffolk County has made acquisitions worth an estimated $200 million in constant dollars. The State of New York has also made acquisitions, with a lower total dollar value. The state protected land holdings within the region now known as the Core Preservation Area were significantly boosted in 1978, with the corporate gift by the Radio Corporation of America of approximately 5,000 acres of pine barrens in Rocky Point and the area of Southampton Town immediately south of the Riverhead business district.

Since the enactment of the Pine Barrens Protection Act in 1993, the County and State programs have acquired a total of approximately 736 acres (288 acres by the State and 448 acres by the County, not including the Suffolk County Water Authority holdings discussed above). The County expects to acquire an additional 550 acres under the Drinking Water Protection Program. The State expects to acquire approximately 750 additional acres with its remaining Fiscal Year 1995 funds. The actual total acreage acquired in each program will depend upon the per acre costs of each acquisition and may vary considerably from these estimates.

The total acreage (including the 736 acres noted in the preceding paragraph) which could be purchased through the existing stream of funds, is approximately 3400 acres if the average acquisition cost is $7,000 per acre. This funding stream includes the State Fiscal Year 1995 allocation, the State Natural Resources Damages Account money, the county's Drinking Water Protection Program funds, and the federal Intermodal Surface Transportation Enhancement Act program. With an average per acre cost of $8,000, that total drops to 3,000 acres. These estimates are contained in Figure 3-3.

The current phase of acquisitions in the Core Preservation Area has included several large parcels, some of which had received preliminary plat approval. The average cost per acre has been approximately $7,500. This per acre cost can be expected to drop as less valuable parcels are acquired. This trend would tend to lower the long term overall cost of the program.

Many privately owned parcels within the Core Preservation Area are landlocked. Others, though single and separate and with "paper" access, cannot be developed in the current economic climate. While the total property affected by this development limit is not yet known, it may be as high as 5,000 acres.

The Nature Conservancy has acquired by donation 124 acres of property inside the Core Preservation Area in the last six years. This total does not include those parcels that have been transferred to Suffolk County.

A blanket resolution permitting Suffolk County to accept donations of property within the Core Preservation Area without requiring a separate resolution for each parcel was passed by the Suffolk County Legislature and signed by the County Executive in January, 1995 (introductory Resolution Number 1851-94; Resolution Number 47-1995). This resolution should encourage additional donations since it places no financial burdens on the property owner who wants to make a gift of property for tax purposes. The Nature Conservancy estimates that as many as 300 acres might be obtained through donations by owners of small parcels in the Core Preservation Area.

Finally, Suffolk County takes title to various parcels through tax defaults. Those located in the Core Preservation Area are added to the protected lands that the County already holds there. They are not sold at auction as would be the case for properties elsewhere in the County.
 

3.10 Future acquisitions: Funding possibilities

Suffolk County has funded its current round of acquisitions through the Drinking Water Protection Program, based upon the sales tax surcharge of one quarter of a percent. This stream of funding will continue through 1999, and will generate an estimated $7 million in each of the years 1995 though 1999, in excess of debt service obligations. This same funding source, over the same period, will generate approximate $2 million for land acquisitions by each of the three towns affected by the Plan. All or part of these funds could be used for acquisitions within the Core Preservation Area.

Suffolk County also has an open space acquisition program. While no dollars from this program are currently targeted for Core Preservation Area purchases, future monies could be so directed.

Current New York State funds for Core Preservation Area purchases are the result of a special state appropriation for the 1994-95 fiscal year. The State also has dedicated funding for land acquisition under the Environmental Protection Act of 1993. This Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) will generate an estimated $32 million for statewide acquisitions in the proposed 1995-96 state budget. Subsequent years will see larger amounts available as previous acquisition commitments are fulfilled. While the EPF is for statewide use, part of it could be used for Core Preservation Area acquisitions on Long Island. Additionally, other Core Preservation Area acquisitions could be funded from the State Natural Resources Damages Account, especially if the Account were to receive monies from local natural resource damage settlements.

As noted above, 24,500 acres are already preserved in the Core Preservation Area, with another 14,000 acres already developed. Approximately 14,000 acres of the Core Preservation Area are vacant and in private ownership. Currently, funds are available to acquire approximately 3000 through 3400 acres (covering the price per acre range of $7,000 to $8,000). Though not included in Figure 3-3, donations of land and property acquired through the tax default process will continue to occur, perhaps totalling 500 acres in the next five years.

Acquisition of all of the vacant, privately owned acres in the Core Preservation Area would require approximately $117 million, if the average acquisition price is assumed to be $7,500 per acre, and using as a starting point the actual allocations to date shown in Figure 3-3. Here, a steady commitment of state and county funds would result in the purchase of all privately held vacant property in the Core Preservation Area by 2002. This assumes that all other factors, including the average cost per acre, remain constant. This scenario assumes no development rights transfer. However, Chapter 6 proposes such a program.

 
Figure 3-3: Pine Barrens acquisition projection of committed funds
Source
Fiscal
year
Allocation
Administrative costs
(*)
Program funds
Acres
protected
at $7,000
per acre
Acres
protected
at $8,000
per acre
Suffolk
County
DWPP (**)
1994
on
$10,000,000 $1,000,000 $9,000,000
1286
1125
DEC
State
Budget
1995
$10,000,000 $1,000,000 $9,000,000
1286
1125
DEC
ISTEA
(***)
1995
$160,000 $16,000 $144,000
21
18
Suffolk
County
ISTEA
1995
$180,000 $18,000 $162,000
23
20
DEC
NRDA (****)
1997
$2,000,000 $200,000  $1,800,000
257
225
DEC
NRDA
1998
$2,000,000 $200,000  $1,800,000
257
225
DEC
NRDA
1999
$2,000,000 $200,000  $1,800,000
257
225
Estimate of acreage through acquisition using allocated funds:
3387
2963
Notes:
(*) Assumes a 10% cost for appraisals, surveys, and other overhead costs.
(**) County Drinking Water Protection Program (DWPP).
(***) Federal Intermodal Surface Transportation Enhancement Act (ISTEA).
ISTEA funds require matching grants, which are contained within the county and state figures above.
(****) State Natural Resources Damages Account (NRDA).