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BETHLEHEM —The Town’s Conservation Easement Review Board (CERB), a five-member volunteer citizen board that reviews landowner applications for the Conservation Easement Exemption (CEE) Program, has recommended the approval of a private landowner’s application for the perpetual (forever) protection of two forested parcels that contain approximately 500 feet of frontage along the Hudson River, just north of Henry Hudson Park.
The public is invited to hear more about this open space and its conservation values to the town by attending a public hearing on Wednesday, March 28, at 6 p.m. in the Bethlehem Town Hall auditorium at 445 Delaware Ave. in Delmar.
The two contiguous parcels, totaling approximately 14 acres, are part of the Upper Hudson “Significant Biodiversity Area”, according to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation data, and are considered important to protect for the health of the Hudson River Estuary ecosystem. The lands are connected to a large forest patch of 640 acres that has been deemed an important wildlife habitat and provides water quality protection. The riverfront lands also provide flood protection and natural scenic views for boaters enjoying the Hudson River. According to Bethlehem Open Space Coordinator Karen Shaw, the town’s 25-point conservation value assessment rated the land “significant” – the highest rating possible.
The Town of Bethlehem’s Conservation Easement Exemption (CEE) Program is one of only four such programs in New York. Since it was implemented in 2014, interested private landowners can apply to reduce property taxes by conserving five or more acres of contiguous open land.
If approved, in exchange for foregoing development on the land for a minimum of 15 years and up to perpetuity, the landowner saves on their local, county and BCSD school tax dollars – from 50 percent up to 90 percent. (Other school districts in town have not yet joined the program.)
According to Shaw, the program is growing each year as community members become more aware of this “unique win-win conservation and tax savings opportunity.” Landowner applications for the CEE program are accepted anytime throughout the year.
In February, the CERB welcomed their newest member, Francis Sheehan. Sheehan helped to develop New York State’s first Open Space Conservation Plan in 1992 and has helped to conserve more than one million acres of land during his tenure at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The board meets about four times a year and meetings are open to the public.
For more information about Bethlehem’s CEE Program, visit www.townofbethlehem.org (Open Space Planning tab) or contact Karen Shaw at 518-439- 4955 x 1106, [email protected]