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Southampton eyes tax breaks for 'green' buildings

Buildings constructed to a high environmental standard would receive up to a 100 percent break on town property taxes for years, under a proposal being eyed by the Southampton Town board.

The first $1 million in value of homes and businesses would be exempt from at least a portion of town taxes for up to 10 years, if the buildings receive ratings by outside groups for improvements such as the use of recycled materials in construction, using low-flush toilets and having an environmentally friendly design.

The tax break would be worth up to $1,411 a year on a $1 million house or commercial building.

In total, million-dollar green buildings would get between $7,055 and $11,288 in town taxes back over 10 years. Improvements over $1 million would be taxed at the full rate.

The town held a public hearing June 25, where environmental groups, trade unions and builders praised the proposal, but some suggested the town consider raising the cap in the future.

A vote on the proposal, which would include any buildings that started construction on Jan. 1, has not been scheduled.

Frank Dalene, a builder and co-founder of the Hamptons Green Alliance, a consortium of building and home-care companies, applauded Southampton as "a leader on the East End" for considering the incentive.

"We believe this tax incentive might be that tipping point to make it more viable," Dalene said.

He said the $1 million cap is "a good starting point." But he would like to see it eventually increased to encourage even more environmentally friendly upgrades.

Assemb. Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) co-sponsored the 2012 legislation that allows local governments to offer the property-tax rebate. The legislature this year amended the law to allow local governments to cap the exemption. He said he wants local governments to be able to encourage "green construction."

"On the other hand, we don't want to provide a windfall to a homeowner either," he said. "These are the factors towns are trying to balance."

He said Suffolk County offers a tax exemption, without a cap, but the county's taxes make up only a small portion of a property tax bill.

Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said the town considered the cap carefully. "We grappled with what that limit should be," she said. "In the end, we felt it was a reasonable one."

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