A private buyer has signed a purchase agreement for the Cappiello farm on Route 50, after the town of Ballston failed to buy part of the property within the family’s timeline.
The buyer signed a contract on Friday for the entire property at 946 Route 50, said Margaret Phillips of Olde Orchard Real Estate, the agent for the Cappiello family. She declined to name the buyer before the sale closes.
“They have no current plans to develop the property,” she said, but declined to say what the buyers planned to do with the 289-acre farm.
“The contract is pursuant to any of the ‘normal’ real estate contract contingencies, however, I can tell you it is a very ‘clean’ contract and we do not foresee any obstacles with closing prior to the end of the year,” Phillips said in an emailed statement.
Until last week, the Cappiello family — settling the late Julio Cappiello’s estate — was offering to sell the town 272 acres of the property, including farm fields, wetlands, streams and trails. First the family offered the property for $600,000, or $2,200 an acre, and later raised the price to $3,300 an acre, which is the price a certified agricultural land appraiser placed on the land.
Town Board members on Sept. 26 agreed to draw up a proposed purchase agreement and set up a special election for voters to have the final say. But at the end of that meeting, the board was presented with a letter that Nancy Cappiello wrote withdrawing the offer.
Cappiello family members were upset about some comments made at the meeting on Sept. 25, including one town board member who said it felt like the family was holding a gun to board members’ head to make them act quickly.
The relationship between the family and the town government had been strained before, since town officials blocked development plans that came before them previously when a developer proposed putting more than 600 housing units on the property. The town then enacted a development moratorium.
“It would have been lovely to have seen our family homeland preserved as open space or farmland or a recreational area — we were willing to make this our family legacy to this town and to trust that the town would use the gift wisely,” Nancy Cappiello wrote last week to the town.
“The town can’t have it both ways. You can’t not purchase the property and not let us sell it to a developer. We are done trying to do right by the town when you continue to refuse to do right by us,” she wrote.
Donald Rhodes, a town resident who was working with the Cappiellos and the town Farmland Protection and Preservation Committee as a volunteer, said at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting that he has heard the buyer is a farmer who owns a sizeable amount of land in the area.
That announcement drew applause from the crowd of about 70 people gathered in Town Hall for the meeting.
Rhodes commended the committee for its work and urged people not to cast blame.
“Passing blame and pointing fingers benefits no one. Let us please quietly reflect on the mistakes we have made.”
The town-appointed Farmland Protection and Preservation Committee has been discussing the proposal with the Cappiellos since early August, said chairwoman Joan Pott.
Pott had hoped that a portion of the Cappiello farm would continue to be leased to a private farmer under town ownership, keeping the agriculture alive while also giving the public a chance to use other parts of the property for recreation.
Farms are dying out all over the area, she pointed out, adding that only one large dairy farm still exists in the town of Ballston: Charles “Chuck” Curtiss’ Willow Marsh Farm on Hop City Road.
Since the town lost the opportunity to buy the farm, Pott has gotten emails from people who are angry at town officials.
“I think people are very disappointed,” Pott said.
Also at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting, the board accepted the resignation of Town Board member Jeremy Knight, who stepped down because of other obligations, including the long-term absence of a key employee at his farm. His family owns Knight Orchards.