Recently the Town has been working on an overall revision of its laws, based on a newly updated Comprehensive Plan, with the assistance of consultant David Church, a municipal planner. Among the laws under revision are two that involve Gardiner’s Open Space Commission.
Open Space preservation has been a priority for Gardiner residents for many years. In 2007, the Town adopted the Gardiner Open Space Plan, laying the framework for new planning and projects. In 2009, the Town of Gardiner Open Space and Acquisition Law (https://ecode360.com/13869007) was passed, authorizing the formation of the town’s Open Space Commission.
Since its formation, the Gardiner Open Space Commission (GOSC) has been very active in our community, helping to preserve Kiernan Farm and Hess Farm in perpetuity, through the establishment of conservation easements on those properties. GOSC was defunct for a few years but re-formed with new members 5 years ago. GOSC’s role is to advise and assist the Town Board in protecting undeveloped land and other natural and cultural resources as defined in the Gardiner Open Space Plan.
Among other projects, and with quite a few additional community activists, members of this Commission worked tirelessly on the groundwork that led to the development of a Community Preservation Plan (CPP) in 2021. The Town’s adoption of this plan led to the Community Preservation Fund referendum that was on the ballot in November of 2022, and approved overwhelmingly by the Town’s voters.
The Community Preservation Fund (CPF) will provide a continuing and key source of funds for Gardiner open space preservation. To implement the goals of the CPF, the Community Preservation Law (https://ecode360.com/39696992) calls for a Community Preservation Advisory Board to be established to review and make recommendations on the use of monies from the fund, once a significant amount accrues.
While similar in overall mission, there are specific differences between the Open Space Acquisitions Law and the Community Preservation Law. The Community Preservation Law includes a robust list of the types of open space projects that can be funded by the Community Preservation Fund, prioritized based on conservation values as established in the CPP. The duties of the (not yet formed) Community Preservation Advisory Board, once established, would be limited to working with the money that comes in from the CPF. At the same time, the Open Space and Acquisition Law authorizes the Gardiner Open Space Commission to undertake a wide range of activities and responsibilities, including conserving new properties, assisting the Town in having its conserved lands monitored, and fundraising from outside sources. Currently, the Commission has no government funding mechanism.
For efficient management of the Town’s open space goals, the Gardiner Open Space Commission recommended to the Town Board in January 2023, that the two laws be combined into one law which would authorize the creation of a single seven (7) member board that will focus on implementing both the Open Space Plan and the Community Preservation Plan.
The Town Board agreed that having two separate boards would be less effective and requested David Church include in his work plan the combining of the Community Preservation Law with the Open Space Preservation and Acquisition Law.
Assuming the new law is reviewed and approved by the Town Board, Gardiner’s current Open Space Commission will be disbanded, and a new Community Preservation/ Open Space Advisory Commission will be appointed.
In the interim, members of GOSC continue work on several other projects, including identifying opportunities for land preservation within the Town using the Community Preservation Plan (CPP) and seeking additional funding sources that can help support future land preservation.