Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:
SECTION 1. For the purpose of this act, the following words shall have the following meanings:-
"Land Bank Fund", town land bank funds established pursuant to section 5.
"Town open space committee" or "town committee", an agency, board, department, commission or committee appointed, designated or established by the board of selectmen, or in the town of Barnstable by the town council, to carry out the provisions of this act relative to acquiring open space. Nothing herein shall prohibit a town from appointing or designating a local nonprofit land trust or conservation organization as said town committee.
SECTION 2. There is hereby established a Cape Cod Open Space Land Acquisition Program for the purpose of acquiring land and interests in land for the protection of public drinking water supplies, open space, and conservation land, the creation of walking and bicycling trails, and the creation of recreational areas.
SECTION 3. Any real property interest in open space purchased with land bank funds shall be retained in natural, scenic, or open condition and shall be bound by a permanent deed restriction limiting the use of the interest to the purpose for which it was acquired. Said deed restriction shall run with the land and shall be enforceable by the town open space committee. Real property interests may consist of any of the following: (a) land to protect existing and future well fields, aquifers and recharge areas; (b) agricultural lands; (c) forest land; (d) fresh and salt water marshes and other wetlands; (e) ocean and pond frontage, beaches, dunes and other coastal lands; (f) land to protect scenic vistas; (g) land for natural or wildlife preserve; (h) land and easements for trails; and (i) land for recreational use. Notwithstanding the foregoing, towns may make improvements to promote recreation that are not inconsistent with such use.
SECTION 4. The board of selectmen in each town of Barnstable county, and in the town of Barnstable, the town council, shall appoint a town open space committee to carry out the purposes of this act. Town committee members shall serve without compensation. Said committee shall recommend to the town meeting, or in the town of Barnstable, the town council, acquisition of specified land areas which qualify as land bank purchases in accordance with the purposes set forth in section 3.
The town committees shall recommend acquisitions of interests in real property and other expenditures consistent with section 3 to the town meeting, or, in the town of Barnstable, the town council. In considering the recommendations of any such acquisition, town committees shall use as a guideline local and regional open space plans, master plans, and local comprehensive plans, if any. Real property interests acquired by a town under this act shall be owned and managed by said town; provided, however, that the board of selectmen or town council, whichever is appropriate, may delegate management of such property to a nonprofit organization created under chapter 180 or chapter 203 of the General Laws, or, in the case of interests to acquire sites for future wellhead development, by a water company, a water district, a water supply district, or a fire district.
SECTION 5. Notwithstanding the provisions of section 53 of chapter 44 of the General Laws or any other general or special law to the contrary, a town which votes to participate in the Cape Cod Open Space Land Acquisition Program shall establish a separate account to be known as the Land Bank Fund for the purposes set forth in section 3. Such account shall be maintained by the treasurer, and the following monies shall be deposited into said account: (i) all monies collected from the additional excise under section 6 or bond proceeds in anticipation of revenue pursuant to section 7; and (ii) any funds received from the commonwealth or any other source for such purposes; provided, however, that funds received from the commonwealth pursuant to section 10 shall provide a 50 per cent match only to those monies collected from the additional excise under section 6. The treasurer may invest the funds in such separate account in the manner authorized by sections 55 and 55A of said chapter 44. Any interest earned thereon shall be credited to and become part of such separate account.
Towns may use land bank funds, in whole or in part, as matching funds for the purpose of providing a match under the land conservation program created under section 11 of chapter 132A of the General Laws, under section 8 or under any other state or federal open space acquisition program consistent with the purposes of this act. The availability of funds under this act shall not affect the eligibility of any town to receive funds under said section 11 of said chapter 132A or to receive funds from any state or federal open space acquisition program. Not more than 3 per cent of said funds may be used for maintenance and improvement to property purchased with land bank funds.
SECTION 6. Notwithstanding the provisions of chapter 59 of the General Laws or any other general or special law to the contrary, any town which votes to participate in the Cape Cod Open Space Land Acquisition Program, in accordance with the provisions of this act, shall impose an additional excise on real property in an amount equal to 3 per cent of the real estate tax levy against said property. Said additional excise shall initiate with the next fiscal year for real estate tax bills following the vote of the town to participate in said program. The amount of said additional excise shall not be included in any calculation of total taxes assessed for purposes of section 21C of chapter 59 of the General Laws. All exemptions and abatements of real property tax authorized by said chapter 59 or any other law for which a taxpayer qualifies is eligible shall not be affected by this act.
SECTION 7. Any town, which votes to participate in the Cape Cod Open Space Land Acquisition Program, may issue, from time to time, general obligation bonds or notes in anticipation of revenues to be received pursuant to section 6. Bonds or notes so issued may be at such rates of interest as shall be necessary and shall be repaid as soon after such revenues are collected as is expedient. Towns which choose to issue bonds pursuant to this section shall make every effort to limit the administrative costs of so issuing bonds by cooperating among each other using methods including, but not limited to, common issuance of bonds or common retention of bond counsel.
SECTION 8. There is hereby established in the executive office of environmental affairs, a program to provide for matching funds to be awarded to the towns in Barnstable county for open space acquisition, watershed protection, recreational uses and related activities to protect the natural and recreational resources of Barnstable county. To be eligible to participate in such grant program, a town must have voted to participate in the Cape Cod Open Space Land Acquisition Program in accordance with the provisions of this act. Annually on July 15, the commissioner shall grant to each town that votes to participate in said program, an amount from the Cape Cod Land and Aquifer Protection Fund established in section 10. Said amount shall be 50 per cent of the amount the comptroller certifies has been collected in the preceding fiscal year by such town from the additional excise under section 6.
SECTION 9. The state secretary shall cause the following question to be placed on the official ballot to be used in each of the 15 towns comprising Barnstable county at the biennial state election to be held in the year 1998:- "Shall an act passed by the general court in the year 1998 entitled 'An Act Relative to the Establishment of the Cape Cod Open Space Land Acquisition Program', to acquire open space and conservation land, provide bicycling and walking trails, enhance opportunities for recreation and protect public drinking water supplies, and to be funded by an additional excise on real property, but not affecting existing abatements and exemptions, and expiring on January 1, 2020, be accepted?" If a majority of votes cast in a town in answer to said question is in the affirmative, then this act shall take full effect in such town.
If a majority of votes cast in a town at said election in answer to said question is in the negative, then said town shall not participate in the Cape Cod Open Space Land Acquisition Program. If a majority of votes cast in a town at said election in answer to said question is in the affirmative, then said town shall participate in the Cape Cod Open Space Land Acquisition Program.
After the first two years following the effective date of this act and every two years thereafter, a town may, by a majority vote of those voting in the annual town election choose to participate in the Cape Cod Open Space Land Acquisition Program. Said program shall be effective at the beginning of the next fiscal year in any town which so chooses to participate pursuant to this section.
SECTION 10. There is hereby established on the books of the commonwealth a Cape Cod Land and Aquifer Protection Fund to be administered by the secretary of environmental affairs for the purpose of provided matching grants to municipalities in Barnstable county that acquire land for open space and aquifer protection. Said fund shall be established as an expendable trust and not subject to appropriation. Any acquisition for which a municipality seeks grants from said fund shall meet eligibility criteria established by said secretary. Said secretary shall annually on July 15 disburse from said fund 50 per cent of the amount the comptroller certifies has been collected in the preceding fiscal year by each such town from the additional excise under section 6.
Said eligibility criteria shall include, but need not be limited to, the requirement that any such acquisition shall confer a significant environmental benefit, shall be retained in natural, scenic or open condition, and shall be bound by a permanent deed restriction that runs with the land, which limits the use of the interest to the purpose for which it was acquired. Said eligibility criteria shall limit matching grants from said fund to only those properties approved for acquisition by a municipality after September 1, 1998. Matching grants shall only be permitted to be used for acquisitions consisting of interests in real property consisting of the uses contained in section 3.
The comptroller is hereby authorized and directed to transfer from the General Fund to the Cape Cod Land and Aquifer Protection Fund established by this section the amount of $15,000,000 not later than June 30, 1998. Said amount shall be available for disbursement until June 30, 2002.
SECTION 11. There is hereby established a study committee to investigate the efficacy and utility of using revenues from a locally approved increase in the room occupancy tax or other source of revenue to further fund the Land Bank Funds established pursuant to section 5. Said committee shall consist of two members of the house of representatives, two members of the senate, a designee of the Cape Cod chamber of commerce economic development division, a designee of the Cape Cod Commission, a designee of the Association for the Preservation of Cape Cod, a designee of working together for a better Cape Cod, and a designee of the Barnstable county economic development commission. The committee shall file a report of its findings and recommendations and drafts of legislation necessary to put its recommendations into effect with the house and senate committees on ways and means and the joint committee on natural resources and agriculture on or before March 1, 1999.
SECTION 12. Sections 9 and 10 of this act shall take effect upon its passage. The remaining provisions of this act shall take effect upon its approval by a majority of all votes cast in each town pursuant to said section 9.
SECTION 13. This act shall expire on January 1, 2020.