Putnam voters get historic opportunity to approve open space bond

PUTNAM, NY - May 4, 2005 - The Putnam County Open Space Alliance (PCOSA) today applauded the Putnam County Legislature for passing historic legislation, allowing Putnam County voters to decide this November whether to create a $20 million fund for the protection of the water quality of rivers, lakes, and streams; water sources that serve county residents; air quality; and natural land and open space in the county.

The fund will permit the county to acquire land to protect from development these resources that are so important to the county's special quality of life. “The voters of this county deserve the opportunity to decide whether to protect our water, air, and land. I am pleased that my colleagues in the legislature have joined me to pass this important legislation,” said County Legislator Vinny Tamagna. Tamagna called upon County Executive Robert Bondi to sign the legislation and guarantee its place on the November ballot. 

“We are ecstatic that the county is taking the initiative to protect county landscapes and our drinking water resources for future generations,” said Judith Terlizzi, co-chair of PCOSA and executive director of the Putnam County Land Trust. “This is an historic day and we applaud the county legislature.” 

PCOSA and other bond supporters are buoyed by voter surveys commissioned last year indicating that 58% of Putnam voters would support a $20 million open space protection fund. When provided with additional information about the ballot measure, including that the fund would be used to buy land for drinking water and natural area protection, support for the fund rose to 67 percent. The poll was commissioned by the Trust for Public Land and the Open Space Institute, nonprofit land conservation organizations. Voters polled cited growth and development as the most important issue facing Putnam County, receiving a greater number of responses than other typical top tier local issues including taxes, schools and education, and the economy. 

“I am excited that Putnam County, where I grew up, is now the first county in New York outside Long Island to put an open space fund before its voters,” said Erik Kulleseid, New York State program director for the Trust for Public Land. “We congratulate the Putnam legislature and County Executive Bondi for pursuing this fund. Putnam now joins a national trend of governments letting the voters choose to protect open space. Nationwide, 75 percent of open space measures were approved in 2004, including seven of nine measures in the state of New York.” 

The average cost to taxpayers will be approximately $45 a year, per household, to create a $20 million fund. “I'm convinced that voters will support this measure. There is a strong conservation ethic in Putnam County and a great deal of enthusiasm about keeping the momentum going while the clock's still ticking,” said Joe Martens, president of the Open Space Institute. “Recent census numbers drive the point home—Putnam County is the state's fourth fastest growing county,” added Martens. 

“We applaud our elected officials for moving forward to protect the land that makes Putnam County, the county where the country begins,” said Ann Fanizzi, chair of the Putnam County Coalition to Preserve Open Space. 

“This fund will give Putnam County an important tool as it grapples with tremendous growth pressures. Communities across America are voting to create local funding to protect their fast-dwindling natural and undeveloped areas,” said Frederic C. Rich, Putnam County resident and board chair of Scenic Hudson. “Scenic Hudson supports this initiative and hopes that others in the Hudson Valley will follow Putnam County's lead.” 

The Putnam County Open Space Alliance is comprised of county, regional and state organizations and individuals simply committed to fostering open space in Putnam County. Members include the Hudson Highlands Land Trust, the Putnam County Land Trust, the Putnam Smart Growth Alliance, the Highlands Coalition, PlanPutnam, Putnam Valley Residents' Coalition, Friends of the Great Swamp, Putnam County Coalition to Preserve Open Space, Concerned Residents of Southeast, Concerned Residents of Carmel-Mahopac, the Westchester Land Trust, the Croton Watershed Clean Water Coalition, The Chuckie Goodnight Foundation For The Environment, the Trust for Public Land, the Open Space Institute, and Scenic Hudson.

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