Malta town officials are exploring buying the development rights to a Brownell Road horse farm to guarantee the land will remain in farming, or at least never be developed.
While there’s no commitment by either the town or Sun Valley Farm, the Town Board last week authorized the hiring of an appraiser to come up with an estimate of what the development rights to the land might be worth.
The town and its Open Space, Agriculture and Trails Committee have been pondering starting a purchase of development rights program, as a way of preserving some of the remaining farmland in what’s become a suburban community.
“It would be a program what would essentially pay landowners to protect their land forever,” said David Haight, chairman of the Open Space, Agriculture and Trails Committee.
He said the owner of Sun Valley Farm recently contacted the town, expressing interest in selling the development rights to 45 acres of the farm, situated on the western side of town. The farm is used to breed and raise harness racing horses.
The western and northern parts of town have stayed more rural as the town’s population has increased in recent decades, and there are still some agricultural operations in those areas.
Many historic farms, however, have been sold for development, including the large standardbred farm at Northway Exit 12, where Saratoga Hospital’s urgent care center now sits.
Haight said Sun Valley Farm’s owner, Jacques Boisvert, is a fifth-generation farmer. He could not be reached for comment for this story.
Boisvert has met with Haight and other town staff to explore the possibility, and both sides remain interested.
“We’ve essentially got a conceptual project that we would like to investigate further,” Haight told the Town Board. “It is a beautiful property. They have invested significantly in it as well.”
The town’s next step will be to hire an appraiser to determine the development value of the land. The Town Board gave the open space committee approval to do that.
The farm’s development rights are likely to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, based on other PDR deals in Saratoga County.
Most such deals have required their primary funding to come from New York state, because of the large amounts of money involved. There have been no previous PDR deals in Malta, though there have been about a half-dozen elsewhere in Saratoga County in the past decade.
Statewide, more than 200 farms have sold their development rights since the state’s purchase program began in 1996, according to the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.