Historic Preservation Legislation [Commentary]

June 29, 2006

Connecticut took a major step forward in 2005 as the legislature passed an historic farmland preservation bill. The comprehensive programs in the bill not only help ensure that Connecticut farmland and open space would be protected but creates mechanisms to fund affordable housing as well as preserve historic buildings and land throughout the state

The funding for these programs comes through a new $30 documenting fee instituted. Each town clerk is now required to collect the fee for each document they record in the town’s land records. Of the $30, $26 goes to the state, $3 goes to the towns, and $1 goes to the town clerk’s themselves. Let’s break down what exactly this funding will be put towards.

The $3 becomes part of the each town’s general revenue. Each town must then use their share to fund projects that qualify for state Local Capital Improvement Program grants. These include projects such as road construction, sidewalk repairs, public park improvements, and public building renovations.

The $26 state share will be remitted by the town clerks to the State Treasurer, who will then deposit the funds into the General Fund and credit it to the non-lapsing Land Protection, Affordable Housing, and Historic Preservation Account, which this bill also established. The funds will then be distributed quarterly and divided equally among four state agencies.

The first is the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, who will put a significant amount towards the state’s historic preservation programs already in place. The next is the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, who will supplement new or existing affordable housing programs. The third agency, The Department of Environmental Protection, will use its funds for municipal open space preservation grants. Finally, the Department of Agriculture (DOA) will put the monies towards new and existing farmland preservation programs.

These programs are the Agricultural Viability Matching Grant Program, the Farm Transition Matching Grant Program, and the Connecticut Farm Link Program. In addition, the DOA will use $100,000 annually to encourage Connecticut schools, restaurants, retailers, and other institutions and businesses to buy Connecticut-grown food.

Local officials know their town and its land better than anyone. That’s why this legislation also allows towns, by vote of their legislative bodies, to create authorities to help them preserve land for agricultural, open space, and recreational uses. An authority can help towns acquire or develop land or enter into agreements in order to acquire, maintain, improve or protect land for agricultural, open space, and recreational uses.

With money being invested wisely in a variety of key areas, I was extremely supportive of this legislation. As Ranking Senator on the Planning and Development Committee, I have been a strong advocate for preservation of existing open space and smart planning for future economic development. This legislation helps ensure that Connecticut maintains much of its natural beauty and historic charm for generations to come.

If you have any additional questions on this new farmland preservation law or any other state matter, please feel free to call me toll-free at 1(800) 841-1421 or e-mail me at [email protected]