When longtime resident Mark Andersen died last May, he left his 33-acre homestead to the town of Glenville.
The property, an active farm at the intersection of Swaggertown and Van Buren roads with wetlands and a trout stream, is one of the top 10 properties identified as worthy of protection in the town Open Space Committee’s draft plan.
Most towns don’t have such coveted properties just fall into their laps like this one did.
“Other communities have tried to do major bond initiatives to purchase open space, transfer of development rights — a number of things that are much more complicated than someone giving property to the town,” said Director of Human Services James MacFarland. Town officials are discussing the possibility of creating a trail linking the Andersen property with Indian Meadows Park down the road.
Open Space Committee Chairman Mark Storti said the town has seen tremendous growth in the last few years and an increasing amount of subdivision applications. This has changed the rural character.
“I think what’s happening is fragmentation,” he said.
Storti said people used to be able to walk from one place to another, but development has sprung up around the Route 50 corridor and Swaggertown Road area, which makes it more difficult to get from place to place on foot.
The Town Board formed the Open Space Committee in February 2006 because of concern from residents that open space was being lost. More than two dozen town residents were appointed to study the issue and to determine the strategies the town should use to combat this problem. The committee provided a written report to the town last month. Now the draft plan will be reviewed by the Planning and Zoning Commission, Glenville Environmental Conservation Commission before heading to the Town Board for adoption.
Goals of the plan include protecting environmentally sensitive areas; preserving the character of historical sites; expanding active and passive recreational facilities and opportunities; protecting scenic views; and preserving and enhancing gateways like agricultural west Glenville.
The draft open space plan states the town consists of four distinct areas. There is the rural region west of Sacandaga Road, with a mix of active farms, hilly terrain, ponds and scenic views. The primarily suburban region is east of Sacandaga Road, the 14 miles of frontage along the Mohawk River and the commercial and industrial sector on the southern side of town.
The plan notes that the town’s population is growing and development pressures will “gobble up farms, fields and woods.” The comprehensive open space plan is needed “to keep the distinctive and interconnecting communities intact and to keep sprawl and the higher taxes that come with infrastructure expansion in check.”
MacFarland said development typically tends to cost a community more than open space. “When you have development — particularly single-family homes — between the expense of maintaining roads, water and sewer and sending children to school, that tends to be a more expensive long-term proposition than preserving open space,” he said.
MacFarland said obviously the town cannot stunt growth forever, but it should evaluate where it makes sense to have growth. He said the plan provides a blueprint for the “nebulous” concept such as open space.
Under existing conditions, the town has a little more than 3 percent of land as open space. Among the obvious examples of open space the town has is Sanders Preserve, Maalwyck Park, Indian Meadows Town Park, the Indian Kill Nature Preserve and Berkley Square. Sanders Preserve is 370 acres of town-owned land with steep slopes, streams and gorges. Hoffman’s Fault is a geologic feature that created Wolf Hollow Gorge, which consists of a stretch of 100-foot sheer cliffs, vegetation and an ancient path that accommodated migrations of the Algonquian Indian tribe. The area around the aquifers in Scotia and Glenville are also priority for protection.
Less obvious examples are the open fields and pastures in western Glenville, playgrounds and ball fields on school properties, wooded areas between neighborhoods, stream corridors, agricultural land and cemeteries.
Among the recommendations are to grant the Planning and Zoning Commission authority to allow for cluster housing on smaller lots; revise the subdivision regulations to preserve natural features; and educate landowners on use of conservation easements to preserve their land.
A key recommendation of the plan is that the town implement a scoring system for open space properties based on criteria such as whether the parcel has sensitive environmental features like wetlands, whether it is close to rivers or streams, whether it has an attractive view, or whether the land has historic features.
“Obviously, a larger parcel would score more and be more valuable. Forty 1-acre parcels would be less valuable than one 40-acre parcel,” MacFarland said.
The top 10 highest-scoring properties for protection are the Scotia Sand and Stone on Route 5, the Gifford property off Pleasantview Avenue, the Van Vorst Farm on Van Vorst Road, the Mohawk Valley Airport, the Lewis Farm adjacent to Maalwyck Park on the east, the Schevchik property north of Glenridge Road, the Andersen property on Swaggertown, the Carter property on Hoffman Hill Road, the Schmidt property on Lover’s Lane and the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake school property south of Indian Meadows.
Storti said there already has been a large amount of public input — including three well-attended public hearings.
The town mailed surveys to residents in the spring of 2006 as part of the town newsletter and a total of 473 responded. Ninety-eight percent of respondents said the town needed a plan for preserving open space.
People will also have a chance to weigh in as the plan will head to the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Glenville Environmental Conservation Commission and the Town Board in late January or early February, Storti said.
He said he believes the plan is not “far-fetched” and the town wants to work with private property owners.
“This plan will not happen unless private landowners are a part of the decision-making process,” he said.
He said the town also has to look at ways to pay for the plan without raising taxes because only 22 percent of those surveyed favored increasing taxes to purchase land and easements.
Town Planner Kevin Corcoran said the committee also believes a policy is needed regarding what the town should do when it is offered open space. Twice recently, the town declined to accept donated land — a 42-acre parcel on Onderdonk Road and a one-half-acre parcel on Indian Kill off of Maybrook Drive.
“That runs contrary to one of the key recommendations,” he said. “If somebody is willing to donate it and the land has value in terms of natural resources, we should accept it.”
Corcoran said some of the Town Board members did not want to accept the land because they figured the land would stay open space and not ever be developed, so they did not believe it should be taken off the tax rolls.
Supervisor Frank Quinn said he believes the committee did a very thorough job and came up with a balanced plan that takes into consideration the good of the whole. He said the town wants to make sure it has “adequate to decent” amount of open space and that it does not overbuild.
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