This historically fast-growing town has adopted a new plan intended to help it preserve some of its remaining large agricultural areas, protect wetlands, and promote retention of wildlife corridors and building of recreational trails.
The Natural Resource and Open Space Conservation Plan approved two weeks ago by the Town Board should help the town hang onto some of its open land and rural character, even as land development continues.
“I think the best thing about it is that it’s a balance. It protects the rights of property owners, but it also gives the town Planning Department the tools for open space preservation,” said Councilman Craig Hayner.
“We want to have tools so people can protect their land if they want to,” said Hayner, who was the Town Board liaison to the committee that developed the new plan.
It’s an effort to preserve aspects of the past in what has been consistently among the fastest-growing towns in the Capital Region. It had 1,969 residents in 1940, and has close to 20,000 today.
It continues to grow. From 2003 to 2009, as the open space plan was being discussed and then developed, another 2,000 acres of agricultural land and 1,300 acres of vacant land was approved for development, the plan states.
Despite that growth, there are still nearly 4,000 acres in agriculture and 2,500 acres of vacant land. The plan, which was developed with the assistance of town engineers Clough Harbour & Assoc., would seek to preserve some of the remaining farmland, woodlots, and open space.
“It is the rural landscape that defines the town and attracts so many people,” the plan states.
One effort that is likely to continue is negotiating with developers set aside permanent open space when they are applying to the town for planned development districts, an initiative of little cost to the town, since the land is donated. About a half-dozen residential planned development districts in recent years have incorporated open space acreage.
“In the past we’ve gotten some very good donations of open space as part of our PDDs,” said Stephen Watts, chairman of the town Planning Board.
Hayner said the new plan piggy-backs on what the town is already doing in obtaining open space through the PDD process, and encouraging development of off-road recreation trails.
The town borders both the Hudson and Mohawk rivers, with remnants of old barge canals along both that have the potential for trail or park development, the plan notes.
There are also slopes and wetlands associated with the McDonald Creek and other streams that deserve protection, the plan notes.
Beyond using the PDD process to obtain land from developers, the plan suggests forming relationships with private land conservation groups like Saratoga PLAN, and looking for opportunities to apply for state grants to preserve land, or buy the development rights to some of the remaining farmland.