The town of Ballston will support efforts to permanently preserve from development the 301-acre Buckley Farm on Route 50, atop a ridge overlooking Ballston Lake.
The Town Board voted Tuesday to endorse an application for state funding to buy the prominent farm’s development rights, which would keep the property from ever being developed for nonagricultural use.
It is the former Cappiello dairy farm, which was bought by Mark and Elizabeth Sacco of Niskayuna in early 2013. They raise grass-fed beef, pork and chicken, sell eggs, operate a farm store and café and rent out a farmhouse to overnight guests.
The renewed agricultural activity there follows a decade in which the scenic property that stretches down the hill to Ballston Lake was mostly inactive and the subject of controversial development proposals.
“It’s a fantastic piece of property. I hope we can work with the Saccos for a good long time,” said town Supervisor Patrick Zeigler.
The Saccos are working with the land conservation group Saratoga PLAN on an application for the purchase of development rights to be filed with the state Department of Agriculture and Markets. Last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced $20.5 million will be available for protecting agricultural lands, with the state paying up to 87.5 percent of costs. It is the first time the state has provided money for farmland protection since 2008.
“It will be a very competitive round, since there have been six years of no applications,” said Maria Trabka, executive director of Saratoga PLAN.
She said PLAN and the Saccos were already talking about ways to conserve the land when Cuomo made his announcement.
Trabka said her organization and the Saratoga County Planning Department are working with three other potential applicants, in Stillwater, Charlton and Northumberland. Applications are due July 14.
The Charlton Town Board on Monday endorsed an application on behalf of the David and Kathy Arnold crop farm on Western Avenue.
The state grant program is a way of helping farmers whose land is under development pressure because of Saratoga County’s growth, said county Planner Jaime O’Neill.
“I don’t think the pressure in Saratoga County has ever really gone away,” she said. “Having state grants is really critical to the future of agriculture in the county and having productive land available for families.”
The amount of money to be sought for the Buckley Farm hasn’t been determined.
County records show Wm. H. Buckley Farm LLC paid $1.05 million for the 289-acre Cappiello property in January 2013. It subsequently acquired the Lake Ridge Farm farmhouse and barns, which sit on 11 adjoining acres, for $650,000.
The development rights are generally a substantial part of a property’s value, but that amount is determined by an appraisal. If the grant is successful, the rights would be purchased and a conservation easement placed on the land to permanently prevent development.
In 2012, the Cappiello family offered to sell the property to the town of Ballston for use as open space, but withdrew the offer when town officials were reluctant to pay the asking price.
From 2004 to 2006, the farm was also under option to a developer who proposed building as many as 800 housing units. That proposal generated major local opposition and ultimately was withdrawn by the developer.
Also Tuesday, the Town Board voted to seek state funding for a $20,800 study that would look at the feasibility of a transfer of development rights program. Under such a program, the town could accept the development rights to a farm and transfer them to a developer looking to increase housing density at a location where the town would like to see development. This would have two benefits: preserving a large chunk of open space and concentrating development in specific areas where it is more appropriate.
The town would contribute up to $5,000 cash and $800 in in-kind services to the study, if the application to the Department of Agriculture and Markets is successful.
Both preservation of what is now the Buckley Farm and setting up a transfer of development rights program were among recommendations of a town farmland protection plan approved last year and the committee that developed it.