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What you need to know for 11/19/2017

Saratoga County allocates money for land conservation

Saratoga County allocates money for land conservation

The county has allocated $100,000 of its $250,000 Farmland and Open Space Preservation fund to three
Saratoga County allocates money for land conservation
Part of the 34 wooded acres behind Shenendehowa's Shatekon Elementary School.
Photographer: Cady Kuzmich

Saratoga County is putting $50,000 in county money behind the town of Clifton Park’s effort to buy land in the downtown area from the Shenendehowa Central School District to create a “town green.”

The allocation from the county’s Farmland and Open Space Preservation fund was one of three approved last week by the county Board of Supervisors.

The other two grants would help pay to permanently conserve 95 acres of crop land in Wilton and a 23-acre wooded property in Galway.

In all, the county will be spending $105,549 on open space protection this year, and potentially preserving 152 acres from development.

The funding to Clifton Park would go toward a roughly $1 million offer the town is making to buy 34 acres of land east of Moe Road from the Shenendehowa district.

Town officials say the land could allow an off-road trail connection between the Moe Road multi-use path and the town center area, where Clifton Park’s commercial development is located.

It is unclear, however, whether the school district will accept the offer. School officials are reviewing sealed bids that they received Oct. 31, including the town’s offer.

“We received multiple bids,” confirmed Dr. Oliver Robinson, Shenendehowa’s superintendent of schools.

A number of residents at recent meetings have called for the Board of Education to allow the town to buy the land, but board members have maintained a silence.

The property, which borders the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library, was bought by the school district in 1970, when planning was underway for the Shaketon Elementary School. The district now considers the land surplus.

Earlier this year the district went through a bidding process and received just one bid — from DCG Development, the downtown area’s major commercial developer. DCG offered $1.7 million, but later withdrew its offer, causing the school district to seek a new round of bids.

[Residents fight for future of Clifton Park wild space]

Robinson said the Board of Education reviewed the bids in executive session Nov. 8 and will do so again this Tuesday, with the goal of making a decision at its Dec. 6 meeting.

“The board is really, really looking to exercise due diligence in considering all the bids and the public sentiment, but also the larger impact on the school district,” Robinson said.

While there’s uncertainty about whether the Clifton Park grant will be successful, the other two proposals approved by supervisors are considered a sure thing.

In Wilton, the county will be paying $32,144 in transaction costs as landowner John Tooker donates development rights worth $1 million to Saratoga PLAN, the land preservation organization.

The 95 acres is along Old Gick and Jones roads in Wilton, in an area surrounded by development. The land is currently rented to grow alfalfa by Kings Ransom Farm of Northumberland, one of the county’s largest dairy farms.

In Galway, landowners Harold and Arlene Rhodes are giving up the development rights to 23 acres of woodland that adjoin the existing Milton Preserve and the Carpenter Farm. The county has agreed to pay $23,405 in transaction costs, though Saratoga PLAN will raise the money to buy the easement and then hold it. PLAN will pay more than $28,000 in transaction costs.

The three grants together total $105,549, meaning the county will spend less than half of the $250,000 it allocated this year for open space protection. In most years, demand outstrips the available funding.

Despite receiving only the three applications, the supervisors tentatively plan to include another $250,000 for open space protection in next year’s county budget.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, swilliams@dailygazette.net or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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