Yates County Legislature approves a fund that can be accessed by organizations to preserve natural and recreational resources within the county. A percentage of occupancy tax revenues will supply the fund.
The Yates County Legislature has approved a policy that lays the groundwork for sharing funds that will be used to protect and preserve natural and recreational resources in the county.
Making improvements to public assets in the county was recommended by Finger Lakes Economic Development Center executive Steve Griffin in one of his reports earlier this year. He said while tourism promotion efforts have helped attract more visitors to the county, and thus more occupancy tax revenue, investments in assets will help keep visitors in the county longer, or encourage them to return for another visit.
The new policy, unanimously adopted at the Oct. 10 legislature meeting, was created as a way for the county to provide support to preserve and develop recreational trail corridors that cross municipal borders and develop outdoor recreation facilities intended to serve all county residents.
The county budget will include a line item of a maximum of 20 percent of the previous year’s occupancy tax revenues. Organizations can apply to the county through the Planning Department for funds. No individual organization will be able to receive more than half of the total amount available for that year, and the organizations may be expected to provide a match of up to 50 percent in cash or in-kind services.
If the total funds are not distributed during a budget year, the remaining funds will be re- distributed to the county’s general fund to offset the property tax levy.
Priority will be given to projects that:
• Substantially protect, preserve or develop land, natural or recreational resources
• Provide public access to Canandaigua, Keuka and/or Seneca Lake
• Protect land on an existing or potential inter-municipal trail corridor
• Protect a high concentration of prime soils or soils of statewide significance
• Protect a distinctive or noteworthy view as identified in the Yates County Scenic Planning guidelines
• Provide for an expanded and/or enhanced recreational use for the public
• Provide water quality of the lakes
• Enable the furtherance of the policies set forth in the Comprehensive Plan
• Enable research studies and surveys whose purpose is consistent with the policies of the county.
The county planning department will accept applications which will be evaluated by the legislature’s finance committee.
Other business at the Oct. 10 meeting included:
• Tourism Funding: The legislature accepted the recommendations of the Tourism Advisory Committee, allocating $297,389 from occupancy tax revenues to 11 organizations:
• Yates County Chamber of Commerce (Tourism Promotions Agency): $176,629
• Finger Lakes Wine Country: $67,500
• Finger Lakes Tourism Allicance: $21,860
• Mom’s 5K Run: $5,000
• Arts Center of Yates County: $5,000
• The Windmill: $3,000
• Keuka Outlet Trail: $10,000
• Dundee Scottish Festival: $1,000
• Finger Lakes Farm Country: $5,000
• Fox Run Vineyards: $2,400
District 2 Legislator James Smith of Torrey sought an amendment to strike the Fox Run Vineyards allocation, saying its purpose — to cover the expense of overtime for sheriff’s deputies conducting traffic control during the annual Garlic Festival — is a cost of doing business that should be absorbed by the winery. District 1 Legislator Elden Morrison of Jerusalem, seconded Smith’s motion. The two were joined by District 3 Legislator Mark Morris in voting for the amendment. District 4 Legislator James Multer, who serves on the TAC, and District 1 Legislator Taylor Fitch defended the allocation, saying the recommendations should be approved as a package. After the amendment failed, the resolution passed unanimously, with District 2 Legislator Terry Button absent.
• Vacancies: The legislators approved recruiting a county historian, filling a vacant deputy sheriff sergeant position and any subsequent vacancy that might result from an internal promotion, and hiring a senior automotive mechanic. Morrison and Morris voted against filling the vacant deputy sheriff sergeant position.
• Recognition: The legislators recognized Marine Patrol Officer Pam Housel as the New York State Boating Instructor of the Year, and many election workers who have served the county board of elections over the years. See the related stories.
• Statement: None of the other legislators repsonded to a statement read by District 3 Legislator Mark Morris, who said he will only do the minimum campaigning to seek re-election to his seat. Morris, who failed to win a spot on the Republican line of the ballot, said, “Serving as a legislator has been an eye-opening experience to say the least. I’m most proud of being a data and fact driven independent thinker, even though I am often ostracized and ridiculed for not going along with the majority.” He said he encountered “orchestrated disrespect and resistance,” before listing proposals he is proud of achieving, and others that were not supported.