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. The town of Westport may establish and appropriate $1,500,000 for an Agricultural-Open Space Preservation Trust Fund for the purposes of:
(a) preserving existing productive agricultural lands and supporting and revitalizing the town's agricultural industry;
(b) preserving potential open spaces for recreational use; and
(c) protecting environmental resource areas.
SECTION 2. The trust fund shall allow the town to exercise options that include:
(a) contributing to agricultural preservation and conservation restrictions, including the purchase of development rights and preservation of agriculture rights;
(b) exercising the town's right of first refusal under chapters 61, 61A and 61B of the General Laws;
(c) activities deemed to be in the best interest of preserving agricultural land and revitalizing the agricultural industry in the town;
(d) preserving open spaces for the public recreation; and
(e) protecting important environmental resources areas.
SECTION 3. The agricultural-open space preservation trust council, in this act called the council, shall oversee management of the Agricultural-Open Space Preservation Trust Fund. The council shall be formed by internal election from each of the following:
(a) one member of the agricultural commission, if formed, if not at large;
(b) one member of the conservation commission;
(c) one member of the planning board;
(d) one member of the board of selectmen;
(e) one member of the finance committee;
(f) one member of the capital planning committee;
(g) one member of the town's land conservation trust;
(h) two citizens at large.
The board of selectmen shall appoint the members at large. Each member shall serve for a term of 3 years, each on a 3 year staggered term.
SECTION 4. Upon receipt of a recommendation from the agricultural-open space preservation trust council, the board of selectmen and finance committee shall, by majority, vote each in its separate entity to follow the council's recommendation, modify it, or change it for reasons they shall so state. All actions must be determined through a public hearing process, notice to parties concerned, and in conformity with section 23B of chapter 39 of the General Laws.
SECTION 5. The fund shall initially consist of the sum of $1,500,000. Additional appropriations to the fund may be made by town meeting for the purposes set forth in this act by a 2/3 vote. The town may incur debt under clause (3) of section 7 of chapter 44 of the General Laws to fund such appropriations. The treasurer shall maintain the trust fund account.
All receipts, revenue, gifts and funds from all activities of the council shall be deposited in the separate account. The treasurer may invest the funds in the separate account in the manner authorized by sections 55 and 55A of chapter 44 of the General Laws. Any interest earned thereon shall be credited to and become a part of such separate account.
SECTION 6. The council as established by the town meeting shall submit its recommendations for acquisitions and appropriation to the board of selectmen and the finance committee for their consideration, recommendation, and approval. Upon receipt of such approval, the council shall have the following powers and duties in carrying out the purposes of the fund:
(a) to purchase development rights to preserve the agricultural use of existing agricultural lands;
(b) to exercise the town's right of first refusal under chapter 61A of the General Laws;
(c) to foster and promote activities that are in the interest of preserving agricultural land and revitalizing the agricultural industry in the town; and
(d) to enter into agreements for the purposes set forth in this act which may include the payment of funds for consideration in support of those agreements; but any agreements and payments shall be subject to and contingent upon the approval of the board of selectmen and the finance committee.
SECTION 7. In exercising its powers and duties the council, with the approval of the board of selectmen and the finance committee, shall have the powers as set out under the provisions of section 8C of chapter 40 of the General Laws with respect to the acquisition of land and buildings, the acquisition of interests in land and the expenditures of funds.
SECTION 8. If the council determines that land or interest in land are no longer in use or preserved for agricultural purposes, such land or interest in land may be transferred for conservation purposes as if acquired by the conservation commission in the same manner as set forth in section 8C of chapter 40 of the General Laws.
SECTION 9. The vote of the town passed April 5, 2001 under Article 22 of the warrant for the 2001 annual town meeting appropriating and authorizing the borrowing of the sum of $1,500,000 under clause (3) of section 7 of chapter 44 of the General Laws for the purposes set forth in section 1 of this act is hereby validated, ratified and confirmed in all respects. This vote shall constitute full authorization for the issuance by the treasurer and board of selectmen of such borrowing, and no further vote shall be required for such issuance.
SECTION 10. This act shall take effect upon its passage.