Saying more funding is needed to save wild areas in Silicon Valley amid steady development pressure, the board of the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority has placed a parcel tax on the November ballot.

The board of the agency, based in San Jose, voted 7-0 Thursday night to put the $24 annual tax up for voter approval. If the measure wins a two-thirds majority, as required under state law, it will raise $120 million over the next 15 years to buy development rights to preserve farmland, build trails for bikes, hikers and horse-riders, and add roughly 15,000 acres of additional open space preserves in Santa Clara County.

"The health of our open spaces, habitats, creeks and streams is tied to the health of our communities," said Andrea Mackenzie, general manager of the Open Space Authority. "This revenue stream will ensure that our children and all future generations will continue to experience the benefits of open space and nature that we enjoy today."

The agency, established by state law in 1994, currently collects a $12 annual benefit assessment from property owners who live inside the district's boundaries. That area includes San Jose, Santa Clara, Campbell, Milpitas and most of unincorporated Santa Clara County.

Over the past 20 years, the open space authority has preserved 16,075 acres, much of it located around Henry W. Coe State Park, Calero Reservoir and the hills east of San Jose. The agency also helps fund city parks and trails projects.


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In 2008, the state Supreme Court invalidated a previous $20 per-parcel assessment the agency put in place in 2001. Responding to a lawsuit from the Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association, the court ruled the fee was an illegal tax under Proposition 218 because the agency did not obtain two-thirds approval from Santa Clara County voters, as it now seeks to do.

The taxpayer organization says it will oppose this measure, contending that a majority of Silicon Valley residents don't use the preserves or parks. Environmental groups are expected to support it.

In June, voters in southern San Mateo County and northern Santa Clara County approved a $300 million bond act to buy more redwood forests, wetlands and meadows for the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, based in Los Altos. The two open space districts do not overlap.

Paul Rogers covers resources and environmental issues. Contact him at 408-920-5045. Follow him at Twitter.com/PaulRogersSJMN