County leaders plan to renew the agricultural district that has preserved farmland in the northeast corner of the county against development pressure.
The county’s Economic Development Committee today approved renewal of the county’s Consolidated Agricultural District No. 1, which covers farm properties in Wilton, Stillwater, Saratoga, Northumberland and Moreau.
The renewal must be still approved by the full county Board of Supervisors and then accepted by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.
By state law, the district must be reviewed and renewed every eight years, said county Planning Director Jason Kemper. It was first formed in 1997, when three smaller agricultural districts created in the 1970s were consolidated.
The district includes 115 farms that cumulatively have 59,256 acres that are either owned by farmers or rented for agricultural use. The district is located in a corner of the county where farming continues to be a large part of the landscape and includes dairy and horse farms, apple orchards, vegetable farms and beef cattle farms.
Land there, particularly in Wilton, has been under increasing residential development pressure in recent years, according to a report prepared by county planner Jaime O’Neill. Despite that, no property owners in the district asked to have their properties removed, Kemper said.
Agricultural districts provide benefits to farmers who agree not to let their land be developed during the eight-year period, including reduced property tax assessments. They also indicate support for local farmers as a matter of public policy.
“Most of the district remains rural, with a scattering of large-lot residential development throughout,” O’Neill wrote in her report to supervisors. “All five towns in the district have adopted right-to-farm laws to limit the potential impact of conflicts between farm and non-farm neighbors.”
The county has a second agricultural district that encompasses farms in Galway, Charlton, Ballston, Malta and Saratoga Springs. It is due for renewal in 2014.