Schenectady County

Society near deal to buy key parcel

For more than three centuries, the Mabee Farm has overlooked the banks of the Mohawk River.
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For more than three centuries, the Mabee Farm has overlooked the banks of the Mohawk River.

The view of the river from the farm’s rolling green fields and historic buildings is much as it was in Colonial times, and members of the Schenectady County Historical Society hope to keep it that way.

The historical society offered $257,017 for 9.2 acres of surplus state Canal Corp. property on the Glenville side of the Mohawk. The group was the only one to put a bid on the property during a sealed-bid auction that ended this week.

Historical society President Ed Reilly Jr. said the main goal in acquiring the property is to maintain the historical character of the land surrounding the Mabee Farm. Once the purchase is complete, he said the wooded land will likely be kept in its natural state.

“That’s the reason we wanted it,” he said Wednesday. “It oversees the expanse we need to protect the principal view of the farm.”

Reilly said the acquisition is also in accord with the directives set in the will of George Franchere, the Mabee descendant who deeded the farm to the historical society in 1993. Franchere’s will asks that the historical society acquire contiguous property near the farm whenever possible.

Reilly said the Canal Corp. property was once part of the farm nearly a century ago. He said the state seized the land through eminent domain sometime after the barge canal was constructed in 1914.

Canal Corp. Director Carmella Mantello said the canal board is expected to decide whether to accept the bid during its meeting in September. If accepted, the sale will also face review by the offices of the state comptroller and attorney general.

“This process could take up to six months,” she said.

Mantello said the minimum bid on the property was $240,000 when the Canal Corp. opened the auction last month. She said a developer had expressed interest in the property last year, but never submitted a bid.

Developer Ray Marshall of Delmar pitched plans for a massive riverfront development on 46 acres near the Canal Corp. property in 2006. Called Glencove Harbor, the development was projected at 432 condominium units, 39 town houses, a marina, technology park, hotel and banquet hall, which would be located almost directly across the Mohawk from the Mabee Farm.

Historical society officials and preservationists balked at the plans, fearing the construction would disturb the rural charm and serenity of the historic farm on Route 5S. The project also rests within the Mohawk River flood plain.

Marshall’s original plan encompassed the piece of land the historical society is set to acquire. However, the developer has previously indicated the project could advance without that property, although it would have given him a contiguous stretch along the river.

Glenville Planner Kevin Cocoran said the town hasn’t heard from Marshall in more than a year. He said Marshall has already acquired the 43-acre Gay Valley Airport, the 10-acre Elks Lodge property and 5 acres west of the airport.

Part of the original project included Marshall purchasing two parcels of Canal Corp. land on either side of Washout Creek, one of which is now being bought by the historical society. Corcoran said the pending sale is likely to prompt a downscaling of Glencove Harbor, with specific regards to its marina.

“It was certainly a big component of his project,” he said of the property. “It will certainly result in a down scaling.”

Marshall did not return calls for comment Thursday.

Reilly said funds for the purchase will be taken from a balance set aside for the historical society’s $2 million education center being planned on 27 acres recently acquired from Schenectady County. He said the historical society will continue to raise funds for the new construction while it is in planning.

“Everything is in line for us to close on the property in about a month,” he said.

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