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Easement program scrutinized

The Town of Orchard Park's conservation easement program has been a success, according to officials. But it still needs a tweaking, they say.

"We need to look at things like upland," said Councilwoman Nan Ackerman, "because the purpose of the conservation easement program is to preclude or prevent building so we can maintain open green space.

"If there are ways of precluding or preventing building on things like steep slopes and stream corridors -- they're protected in other manners. So we need to make sure our criteria make sure we're looking at buildable land."

Ackerman, the board's liaison to the Conservation Board, which evaluates applications for the easements, said the town already has received easements on 1,400 or more acres of land.

The conservation easements give tax breaks in exchange for a commitment not to develop the land for a specific period of time.

"We've secured a lot of conservation easements," said Richard Schecter, the chairman of the Conservation Board. "There's nothing drastically changing . . . It's just that we want to make sure that any acreage we take, we benefit the town."
"We're perhaps adding some sections to the greenprint, the document we use as we assess conservation easements in terms of the the quality of the easement," said James Loesch, a Conservation Board member and the board's chair when many of the easements were gathered earlier this decade.
Landowners with perpetual easements -- which will be passed on to ensuing landowners -- are also eligible for state tax credits of up to 25 percent of their town, county and school taxes on their land.
That's a new credit this year, said Planning Coordinator Remy Orffeo.

"I had talked to a couple guys who did taxes, and it was so new there wasn't even a line on the New York State tax form for it," said Orffeo. "So people had to file a separate form."

Orffeo said all of the eligible properties had been registered with the state and the owners notified.


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