Farmland Preservation Law Already a Success [Commentary]

July 22, 2006

I have received a variety of phone calls and e-mails to my office regarding the column from a few weeks ago that detailed the new $30 documenting fee which helps fund a variety of open space, farmland, and historic preservation programs. Most constituents were curious about how much money has actually been collected by both the state and local municipalities since the law went into effect in October 2005. With that in mind, I would like to detail for you exactly how much funding is on hand as well as what steps towns can take to apply for funding to preserve open space in their respective areas.

Early returns have indicated that the farmland preservation bill has been a resounding success thus far. The four state agencies involved along with the town clerks, the state Treasurer’s Office and the Office of the Comptroller have all adapted seamlessly to this comprehensive change in the way the state protects open space. In fact, millions of dollars have already been collected and a variety of grants have already been distributed.

According to the Working Lands Alliance, the State has collected over $14.5 million dollars and the towns over $2.2 million from the documenting fee over the last nine months. The state funding, of course, is split among four state agencies, the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, the Department of Environmental Protection, and the Department of Agriculture.

The Department of Environmental Protection uses its share of the funding for Municipal Open Space Grants. In fact, the DEP just completed a round of grant awards totaling $4.75 million, $1 million of which was funded directly by the funding raised by the farmland preservation bill. Local officials should be aware that the DEP is always accepting applications for projects that may qualify for this state funding. To see if a project may be eligible, visit the DEP website at www.dep.state.ct.us or call my office at (800)-841-1421.

In addition, the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism has already awarded a $50,000 grant to rescue two historic properties in Western Connecticut that otherwise would have been destroyed. They are also preparing for future grant distributions for additional historic preservation programs.

Finally, the Department of Agriculture has distributed over $1 million to the Farmland Preservation Program, $500,000 to the Farm Viability grant for Municipalities and the Farm Transition Grant, $100,000 to the “Connecticut Grown Program, and $75,000 for the Farm Link Program.

Only nine months since the program became law, it is paying great dividends. We will continue to provide millions each year to preserve and protect our environment. Again, if you have any questions or know of any land or project that may be eligible for state funding, please contact my office at 1(800) 841-1421 or e-mail me at [email protected] I look forward to hearing from you.