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Competition keen for open space funding

Competition keen for open space funding

There will be a lot of competition for the county’s $750,000 in open space and farmland protection m

There will be a lot of competition for the county’s $750,000 in open space and farmland protection money.

The land preservation program has received requests to spend more than $3 million that would preserve 622 acres in five towns and the city of Saratoga Springs from development.

“We’re going to have to look at [the applications] carefully. It’s a real in-demand program, and that’s a good thing,” said county Land Preservation Committee Chairman Bill Peck, R-Northumberland.

Last Thursday was the deadline for communities to submit 2008 funding applications.

Peck said the applications will be reviewed by the committee later this month with a goal of making funding decisions in early September. The committee could fully fund one or two projects, or give partial funding to several.

“It all depends on what we think has the most significance,” Peck said.

County Planner Jaime O’Neill said the program received 10 applications, seven of them for conservation easements on farmland, and three for recreational open space protection. The requests total $3,077,000.

Among the projects seeking funding is preservation of 134 acres at the Charles Curtiss dairy farm on Hop City Road in Ballston.

The Curtiss family last December received a purchase of development rights grant of $1.04 million from the state Department of Agriculture and Markets. However, the state grant requires a 25 percent local match, which hasn’t yet been raised. The county is being asked for $175,000, or about half of what’s needed for the local share.

Another town of Ballston project, sponsored by the nonprofit land conservation group Saratoga PLAN, requests $140,000 to protect 61 acres located near the Mourningkill and the Zim Smith county recreation trail.

The town of Charlton is asking the county to put up $342,640 toward buying a conservation easement for more than 26 acres of farmland on Charlton Road.

In Clifton Park, the town open space program — which in the last couple of years has spent $1 million to buy development rights to an orchard and farm — is asking the county for $475,000 toward buying the rights to 66 acres on Hubbs Road.

There are two requests from the town of Saratoga: PLAN is asking for $636,930 toward the rights to 192 acres of farmland on Wilbur Road, in the vicinity of the Solomon National Veterans’ Cemetery; there is also a request for $463,050 to protect 58 acres on DeGarmo Road.

In Stillwater, PLAN is asking for $393,350 toward buying an easement over 78 acres on Route 67, and $300,000 toward 42 acres of farmland on Route 32.

The city of Saratoga Springs is seeking funding for two small-acreage recreation projects.

It is asking for $50,000 toward acquiring a quarter-acre on Vanderbilt Avenue, in the area where the Southside recreation complex has been proposed.

It also is seeking $100,000 toward an estimated $390,000 purchase to acquire the former gas station at the corner of South Broadway and Ballston Avenue. The property, less than half an acre, would be turned into a small park under the city’s proposal.

The county’s Land Preservation Committee will review the applications, and recommend which should receive funding to the full Board of Supervisors.

The county in the last five years has awarded $2.3 million in funding for open space project. The annual allocation has been $500,000 in recent years, but that was increased to $750,000 by supervisors this year.

The county also lifted a $100,000 per application cap last year, because farmland projects are so expensive.

With the potential of an Advanced Micro Devices computer chip plant being built in Malta and attracting other nanotechnology businesses, Peck said the county needs to act now to preserve farmland.

“If [AMD] comes to fruition, there’s going to be more and more urban pressure on farmland,” Peck said.

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