Land preservation may get cheaper / Rep-Am

May 7, 2015

The state legislature is moving to lower the share of matching funds that municipalities, water companies and nonprofit organizations looking to preserve open spaces must contribute toward land purchases. The Senate unanimously approved legislation Wednesday to increase the amount of state and federal funds that applicants for state grants for land preservation can use to finance acquisitions. Many communities and land trusts are having difficulty raising the required financing needed to leverage state and federal funds, said Sen. Ted Kennedy Jr. The Senate bill increases the current cap of 70 percent to 90 percent. “We heard overwhelming testimony that the 70 percent cap has really outlived its usefulness,” said Sen. Clark J. Chapin, R-New Milford, the ranking Senate Republican on the Environment Committee. If enacted into law, Senate Bill 347 would effectively lower the share that applicants for open space grants must contribute from 30 percent to 10 percent. Kennedy and Chapin told Senate colleagues that representatives of some land trusts reported that several proposed conservation projects are in jeopardy because the organizations are struggling to raise the matching funds that are needed. The original legislation proposed to eliminate the 70 percent cap, but the state Department of Energy and Environmental Committee recommended raising it to 90 percent. “I think what we have before us is a great compromise. It gets us to where we need to get,” Chapin said. The bill now heads to House for a final vote in the legislature.