Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Your Vote Counts: A Chance to Support Open Space on November Ballot

Voters have another opportunity to preserve the rapidly dwindling supply of open space in Nassau County thanks to a county-wide $100 million Environmental Bond Act that will appear at the top of the November ballot as Proposal One. If the bond passes, it will cost the average family $16 annually ($1.33 monthly) and will fund land acquisition and open space preservation. Land use planners project that Nassau County will be “built out” by 2010, underscoring the importance of immediate action to protect as many key parcels as possible. The bond also would be used to control storm water runoff (the biggest cause of contamination to surface and coastal waters) and for park improvements.

In the last few years, voters have overwhelmingly approved four similar town or county initiatives: a $50 million county bond in 2004; two $30 million bonds in the Town of Oyster Bay (TOB) in 2004 and 2000; and a $15 million bond in the Town of North Hempstead (TNH) in 2000. The county’s 2004 bond currently costs the average household $7 annually ($0.58 monthly), while TOB’s 2004 bond costs an average $16 annually ($1.33 monthly).

The procedure for choosing projects funded by these initiatives is similar in all jurisdictions. Residents and professionals nominate projects they believe to be worthy of consideration. An impartial group of environmental leaders then evaluates the applications based on an objective set of environmental criteria and makes recommendations to the town board or county legislature. Many of the projects that have been funded by previous bonds are in the Hempstead Harbor drainage basin and directly benefit the harbor. Among them are catch basin improvements at Scudders Pond and Gerry Park and wetland restoration along the harbor’s western shore. Acquisition of the propane field adjacent to Tappen Beach is on both the TOB and county list of priorities. The Civic Association believes Hempstead Harbor is likely to reap additional, much needed benefits should voters approve the new $100 million bond.

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