The sale of 32 undeveloped acres of land owned by the Shenendehowa Central School District to BBL Construction was voted down in a referendum on Tuesday night.
The final vote, 5,442 to 2,323, stops the sale to BBL but does not keep the Shenendehowa Central School District Board of Education from conducting another request-for-proposals process to sell the land.
In December the school board voted in to sell the land to BBL, but town open space advocates, who were angry at the lack of public input on the decision, collected enough signatures on a petition in January to force the referendum.
The results mark the end of months of contentious campaigning, and accusations from those on both sides of the issue of using misleading information and underhanded techniques to sway the vote.
Shenendehowa school board President Bob Pressly on Tuesday night said there had been a lot of frustration over the fact that the land sale to BBL had not been a public decision, and the referendum was a response to that.
“This gives us an idea of what the community thinks about it and, clearly, they did not want it to proceed,” Pressly said of the land sale. He stood by the board’s process in awarding BBL the bid originally, but also noted that the community’s message had been received and would be taken to heart.
“There are a lot of options. I think we just have to look at what’s there. We’re very consistent in our desire to sell this at fair market value. That is a major point that we wanted to continue, and we thought by running a bid, anybody could present what they thought was the best option.”
Clifton Park Town Supervisor Phil Barrett, in a statement released after the vote, encouraged residents to put any bitterness over the results aside in order to move forward.
“Last week I encouraged all voters in the Shen School District to vote and admonished forces attempting to divide the municipalities over the referendum. Now that the voters have spoken, in a large turnout for a school district vote, their message is clear,” said Barrett. “The voting is over and it is imperative that we come together as one community in the spirit of cooperation to plan for the future of this parcel of land that has generated a tremendous amount of interest. The Town of Clifton Park remains ready to re-engage with the school district to pursue any available opportunity that will benefit the town, school district and the communities we serve.”
Marc Goldstein, director of real estate at BBL, acknowledged the result but still insisted that a yes vote would have been a win for all.
“Obviously we are saddened by the results and wish that more people had reviewed the true facts to see the merits of this win-win-win proposal, which included more than $2 million to Shen schools and nearly 20 acres donated to the community for parkland. We certainly appreciate all those that took the time to vote on this issue. The district will retain the land at this point and a future sale may open the entire parcel up to some other developments,” Goldstein said.
Susan Burton, member of Friend of Clifton Park Open Space, said that the no vote is just the first step in a long process in deciding the fate of the 32 acres.
“I’m excited, and I am very happy. Needless to say, this is just the next step in getting to our long-term goal, and we hope that the school board will engage with the community at this point. We’ve always said that there’s a lot of concern about what should be done about this parcel. They claimed that we misled the public but, we certainly didn’t mislead them about the extend of interest in this,” Burton said Tuesday night.