The Clifton Park Town Board took the first steps toward permanently preserving 96 acres of farmland by seeking funds to purchase the development rights to Bowman Orchards.
On Monday the board unanimously passed a resolution to apply for a 2018 New York State Farmland Protection Implementation Grant for Bowman Orchards.
The grant will go toward assisting the town in establishing a permanent conservation easement on the land that will strictly limit development on the property.
Bowman Orchards announced its intentions to work toward protecting the popular farm from development in May. The Bowman land was designated as a priority conservation parcel for the area when the town passed its Open Space Plan in 2003.
Owner Kevin Bowman announced plans to sell development rights to a municipality or organization that would be responsible for maintaining a permanent conservation easement on the parcel, which is located on Sugarhill Road in Rexford.
According to the resolution, Clifton Park plans to contribute at least $70,000 toward the preservation effort. The state offers funding of up to 75 percent for such projects, with the remaining 25 percent provided by local funds. If the grant is awarded, the town plans to pull from the Town of Clifton Park Open Space Incentive Zoning Fund to cover the costs. According to the resolution, the town will work with professional planners, appraisers and environmental surveyors on the project if the grant is awarded.
Conservation easement agreements are legal transactions, typically between landowners and a government agency or land trust, that strictly limit what the land can be used for, though landowners retain use of the land and still have the right to sell it.
Any future owners, however, also would be bound by the permanent conservation easement.
Whoever owns the easement is responsible for making sure that the landowners continue to use the property for the specific purpose laid out in the agreement, such as farming.
In return for selling development rights to conservation groups, landowners receive an immediate infusion of cash.
New York state’s Farmland Protection Program provides grants to help land trusts purchase development rights from farmers.
Bowman Orchards is also working with Saratoga PLAN to preserve the land. The town in May announced its support of Saratoga PLAN’s application to the Saratoga County Open Space and Farmland Protection Grant program. That grant is expected to amount to $69,000.
Funding from the state and county, said Jennifer Viggiani, open space coordinator for the town of Clifton Park, will cover some of the costs that Saratoga PLAN could incur through the land appraisal process, property surveys and creating the agreement.
The total cost of the project, she said, will include the money the Bowmans will receive for giving up future development options for the land.
The state will potentially fund up to 87 percent of the cost of such projects when conservation entities take them on alone. The state will fund up to 70 percent of a project if a municipality is involved in the effort. The rest of the costs fall on property owners or other groups involved.
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