Derry Town Council mulls land use tax changes
DERRY — After recently hearing from the public, town councilors are mulling how to distribute a land use tax that has generated approximately $400,000 in funds.
Councilors are trying to decide whether to keep the funds set aside for the Conservation Commission or to place the funds in the town budget. They are scheduled to discuss the tax and possibly make a decision at their next regular meeting on Sept.16.
The majority of residents who went to the microphone Tuesday night urged the councilors to continue to allow the Conservation Commission to use all of the funds from the tax.
Some other residents called for transferring all, or a portion, of the funds to the town budget.
A land use tax is applied when a property that is assessed as agricultural is sold to be used for development. The assessment of the land changes from agricultural to developable use and increases in value, according to town officials. When this occurs, a land use tax is assessed and the funds that are collected go to the Conservation Commission.
The Conservation Commission can use the funds to purchase property to be set aside for conservation. This process has preserved such local properties as Broadview Farm.
During the hearing, resident John Burtis cited a 2005 report that examined land use in the town. Burtis, a former chairman of the land advisory committee, said open space takes far less in the cost of community services when compared to land that is zoned residential.
Conservation Commission Chair Margaret Ives, who spoke next, agreed.
“The economics of open space and what it does to save the taxpayer money are very clear,” Ives said.
Former Town Councilor Janet Fairbanks said the council should leave 25 percent of the funds to the Conservation Commission to maintain current land parcels, with an additional 25 percent to be placed in a fund and used for the additional purchase of land. She said she hoped this would occur in West Derry. Fairbanks then said the remaining 50 percent should be returned to taxpayers.
Derry resident and State Rep. Mary Till said the Conservation Commission has been able to save some open space but more of the land is sold for residential usage. She said Derry could someday resemble a giant subdivision if too much land is sold for residential development.
“I urge you to think long term about what we want this town to look like in another generation,” Till said. “Will it be a place just to sleep, or will it be a place to live?”