Saratoga County

Buying land for Ballston park debated

The Town Board plans to make an offer on a 100-acre parcel of farmland and woods to create a town pa

The Town Board plans to make an offer on a 100-acre parcel of farmland and woods to create a town park, but some officials and residents say the town is committing itself to a costly endeavor without getting enough taxpayer input.

The Ballston Town Board voted 3-2 Tuesday to pursue making an offer on 100 acres on Middleline Road. Officials haven’t actually made an offer yet; the property owner is asking $600,000 for the land.

They plan to use funds left to the town in the will of Frank W. Schidzick Jr., who died in 2001. The late resident left the town money to make a public park, which he said should be a passive recreational area called Anchor Diamond Park that would remain forever wild.

Last year, officials agreed to buy 49 acres of the same property owned by the Lang family, but since then have realized they likely will get more from the estate than they thought, possibly about $800,000, said town Councilman William Goslin. So officials decided to buy more land and make a larger park.

The will has been tied up in surrogate court for years, which is why the town has been uncertain how much money it would get.

Supervisor Patti Southworth voted against the proposal to buy 100 acres, saying spending that much money would deplete the funds that she hoped would be used to maintain the park. And that could put a burden on taxpayers several years down the road.

Financial estimates showed that with the funds from the estate, the town could maintain Anchor Diamond Park for 20 years if it bought 49 acres, and for nine years if it bought 100 acres, Southworth said.

“We actually voted to institute an underfunded mandate, a program that we can’t sustain for the long haul.”

Councilman Jeremy Knight also voted against the measure along with Southworth.

Goslin, Mary Beth Hynes and Timothy Szczepaniak voted for it.

Goslin said the price is a good deal for that many acres of prime land and the park will benefit the town.

“You’ll never be able to touch this property in the future for that” amount, he said. “I think in the years to come, this will be one of the best things that this board has ever done.”

The only other public park in Ballston is Jenkins Park, which is owned by the town but maintained by a private taxpayer-funded association.

Southworth also advocated for a voter referendum on Anchor Diamond Park, something only she and Knight voted for last year.

“At the very least I think we should have held an open public hearing [and] got the word out through a mailing,” she said.

Goslin said the town has been discussing the larger park for a couple of months at public meetings of the parks and recreation committee and then the Town Board.

“I believe that the people who are saying this are trying to delay the decision on the park,” he said.

Southworth also wanted language in the agreement passed Tuesday that the park would be forever wild, but the majority didn’t want to limit future use of the park.

If the park is developed for ballfields, that will make it more expensive to maintain, she said. “Ballfields can run you $300,000 just to install.”

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