On March 18th the Tomkins County legislature enacted a new local law providing for up to a 10 year property tax abatement for construction achieving LEED certification.

Tomkins County, New York which includes the Ithaca area, was named for Daniel Tomkins. Tompkins may be best known because he was mentioned by Kris Kringle in the 1947 film Miracle on 34th Street. The onscreen line was incorrect, however, in that Kringle said Tompkins served as Vice President of the United States under John Quincy Adams when in fact he was elected on the ticket with James Monroe in 1816 (.. but you knew that). 

In 2012, New York enacted NYCL RPT § 470 enabling local governments to exempt green buildings from real property taxes. For the exemption to apply, the local government must adopt an appropriate ordinance. The state statute describes new construction or improvements and that a project must meet the LEED, Green Globes, American National Standards Institute, or substantially equivalent green building certification standards.

Tomkins County, desiring “to encourage sustainable practices,” enacted Local Law A of 2014, effective on the date of enactment, providing for up to a 10 year property tax abatement for building achieving LEED certification (and the law does not include the other permissible green building rating systems). The amount of the exemption permitted varies by year and by the certification level achieved. LEED Silver, Gold and Platinum projects each are exempted from 100% of property taxes for 3 years and then taxes are re established with a sliding scale over 10 years, with the most generous tax incentives being awarded to Platinum building.

The maximum taxable value to be abated under the proposed law would be $100,000.

The local law was one of the ‘Top 22’ priority projects in the Cleaner Greener Southern Tier Plan, which was developed with input from community residents, businesses, and government to develop a regional sustainability plan to improve the economic and environmental health of the area.

The County is home to Cornell University, Ithaca College and Tomkins Cortland Community College, and these institutions have LEED buildings on campus, but there are no other LEED certified buildings in the Ithaca area.

A real property tax exemption is the most common local government incentive for Green building. In a recent survey of local government green building laws across 100 jurisdictions, overwhelmingly the most often granted incentive for a LEED certified building was an abatement of real property taxes.

All are invited to the symposium “Can Green Building Law Save The Planet?” at the University of Baltimore School of Law this Wednesday, March 26 at 5:30 p.m.  Susan Dorn, general counsel of the USGBC, Abbey Hopper, director of the Maryland Energy Administration, and others will be presenting with me. For details and to RSVP .

Photo 20th Century Fox 1947