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CLARENCE TO LOWER VACANT-LAND ASSESSMENTS

Clarence, one of Erie County's growth communities, Wednesday night passed a law that rewards land conservation with lower taxes, but its benefactors were largely silent.

In a town where a property revaluation this year stirred anger among owners of large parcels, just two people spoke at a Clarence Town Board hearing on a law that will reduce vacant land assessments by up to 90 percent for those who qualify.

The Town Board unanimously approved the measure, first introduced in 1993. For owners of parcels of 10 acres or more willing to surrender development rights to the town, it offers a 25 percent assessment reduction in the first year, increasing by 5 percent a year to a maximum of 90 percent
after 25 years.

Land owners agreeing to a perpetual easement -- one that runs with the land forever -- get the 90 percent reduction from the first year on.

Vacant land values spiraled this year when the town updated assessments from 1987 to 1997 values. People who own large tracts that are not farmed and thus do not receive agricultural exemptions were among the hardest hit, officials acknowledged.

Councilman John F. Love, who championed the new law partly because of revaluation's impact, said it provides a cushion for those who no longer farm their land to fall back on when their agricultural
exemptions expire.

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