Like other towns in Saratoga County, Ballston still has a significant amount of farmland -- and pressure to develop it. Perhaps no single parcel is as prominent and worth preserving as the 289-acre Cappiello Farm on Route 50, with its rolling hillside and sweeping panorama that includes nearby Ballston Lake and, in the distance, the Green Mountains. The town now has an opportunity to save this property for far less than it's worth, and should take advantage.
This is the same land whose proposed sale in 2004 for a massive development, including million-dollar homes, a horse barn, horse trails, and a small shopping center, brought an outcry from the community. After twice reducing the size of the project in an unsuccessful effort to appease the public, the developer withdrew in 2006. A 2009 proposal by a second developer, to build 300 condominiums, got the same kind of community reaction and had the same result.
After those close calls, the town created the Farmland Protection Committee and started developing a farmland protection plan, a process that just got a boost from the state in the form of a $25,000 grant. Although the plan isn't finished, preserving the Cappiello Farm is known to be part of it.
And it appears the town can do that without breaking the bank. Recently the Farmland Protection Committee and the Cappiellos have been discussing a proposal that would have the town buy the property for $600,000 (after carving out 15 acres for the family home), continue to lease it for farming, keep the existing soccer fields and leave the rest as parkland or open space.
While no final deal has been reached yet, the Cappiellos seem agreeable, according to the committee. Their real estate agent says they want to sell the property but don't want it turned into houses or town houses.
Bonding $600,000 would mean an additional $27 a year in taxes over 20 years for someone owning a $400,000 house. That's a small price to preserve this beloved piece of farmland with the splendid view. Ballston residents should attend tonight's public hearing on the proposal at Town Hall and make clear they are willing to pay it.