Dutchess County is experiencing tremendous development pressures. Since the 1950s, the county’s population has grown dramatically. Between 1950 and 1980, population increased 80% from 136,781 to 245,055. Current estimates predict a population of 326,000 by the year 2010. While many local communities are faced with proposals for new housing units and commercial buildings, they are also witnessing a significant decline in their agricultural sectors.
Indicative of this trend, the number of housing units in Dutchess County increased by 25.6%, from 69,126 to 86,852 over the ten year period of 1970 to 1980. Conversely, land in commercial agricultural use dropped by almost 30,000 acres from 1969 to 1982 with a coinciding drop of 150 farms.
Such growth creates additional tax revenues for Dutchess communities. However, it also requires significant increases in the demand for local services. To fully appreciate the costs and benefits in the demand of increased development, it is important to compare revenues generated by each major land use in a community with the expenditures allocated for each use. This comparison may reveal a far different view of the relative value of a land use than has traditionally been held. In light of this, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Dutchess County, in cooperation with American Farmland Trust, conducted a study to compare’the fiscal impact of three major land uses – residential, agricultural land and commercial/industrial.
Two towns with different growth patterns were chosen for the study. The Town of Beekman, population 7,600, was chosen as a rapidly developing community with few farms remaining. The Town of North East was elected as an agricultural community beginning to face development. Almost 25% of Dutchess County’s agricultural industry lies within the Town of North East. On the other hand, the Town of Beekman, once an agricultural community, is now primarily rural, residential. The Town of North East currently has 104 tax parcels qualifying for agricultural value assessment; the Town of Beekman has 25 qualifying parcels.
The study is similar to two others in Hebron, Connecticut and Loudoun County, Virginia conducted by American Farmland Trust. As in those studies, we have made a comparison between the revenues generated by a land use sector and the expenditures for services required by that land use. The goal is to determine the relative impact of a particular land use on a town’s budget and to use this to promote a favorable balance of land uses within the community.