Even though Ballston Town Board members say they are in favor of acquiring 272 acres of the Cappiello Farm on Route 50 they couldn’t agree Tuesday night on putting the issue before town voters on Nov. 6.
The board conducted a public hearing on a proposed referendum that would have the town buy that acreage of the Cappiello Farm (excluding 14 acres where the home and barn buildings are located) at a cost not to exceed $600,000.
More than 100 people attended the hearing in the Town Hall on the Charlton Road. Approximately 20 spoke at the hearing with the majority saying they believe buying the rolling farmland for agricultural, open space, and recreational uses was a good idea at a fair price.
Some of those speaking at the hearing said they were against the proposal, especially the idea of taking the property off town tax rolls. Some speakers said they were opposed to the proposal because leasing a portion of the land to a qualified farmer would not mix well with passive recreational uses of the property.
After the 11⁄2 hour hearing, the board considered the resolution presented by Donald Rhoades, a town resident and professional engineer who is on the town-appointed Farmland Protection and Preservation Committee. The committee developed the open space and agricultural plan for the property and the wording on the referendum resolution.
Town Supervisor Patti Southworth made a motion to approve the resolution, which she explained would present the proposition to the voters on Nov. 6 for their decision on whether to purchase the property.
Her motion failed for lack of a second.
“This property is not going to be here forever. We need to make a move on this,” Southworth said.
Board members took turns saying this was the first time that saw the resolution and, even though they favored the concept of the town buying the land, they were concerned about the wording and format of the resolution.
“I’m in favor of preserving this property and finding a way to do it,” said board member William Goslin. “How do we get it done?”
Town board member Mary Beth Hynes said town attorney Murry Brower advised the board that the resolution was not written to comply with town law.
Brower cited a section of town law pertaining to the time frame for placing a permissive referendum before voters. He said according to that time frame the board would need at least 60 days to file the paperwork to get the issue placed on a ballot. He also had questions about wording on bonding in the resolution. Brower was not involved in writing the resolution. It was created by the special Farmland Protection and Preservation Committee.
Brower suggested the board consider the matter more then schedule a special public vote on the matter after Nov. 6.
Rhoades told the board he was not sure the Cappiello family would wait much longer with their offer to sell the 272 acres to the town for the $600,000 price. The family was expecting that the board would schedule the public vote at Tuesday’s meeting, Rhoades said.
More discussion followed and the board agreed to hold the board meeting open and reconvene at 7 tonight in the Town Hall to see if there was a way to get the referendum on the Nov. 6 general election ballot. There was discussion that the referendum time frame is controlled by state election law, not by town law, and that 36 days would be adequate time to get the referendum on the ballot.
Southworth and others are concerned about the cost of holding a special election and the time-delay that would be involved in such an election.