CLIFTON PARK — The Shenendehowa Board of Education approved a $1.1 million sale of a wooded 34-acre parcel of land to the town of Clifton Park.
The board’s approval of the contract at its meeting on Tuesday leaves a Dec. 5 referendum as the only remaining step for the town to secure ownership of the land, which the district has held for four decades and has been the subject of controversy for months.
The vote was not unanimous. Board president Bill Casey and members Gary DiLallo, Naomi Hoffman, Christina Rajotte and Deanne Stephenson voted in favor, but Bob Pressly voted against the contract. Board vice president Todd Gilbert was absent from the meeting.
The parcel was the subject of an April referendum in which school district residents overwhelmingly rejected the district’s proposal to sell the land to BBL Construction for about $2 million.
The land, which is undeveloped, is off Maxwell Road, adjacent to Shatekon and Arongen elementary schools. If the sale is approved by school district voters in December, the land would only be used for public purposes, such as a park. New York State Education Law 405 stipulates that once the town owns the land, it's prohibited from selling it for a non-public use.
At the meeting, residents expressed excitement over the possible sale, and applauded the district for deciding to work with the town.
“In less than a year, a lot has happened,” said Frank Berlin, a Clifton Park Open Space Committee member and resident of the town. “I’m very excited about the whole thing.”
Berlin said that the land is in a perfect location to function as a public park. He also argued against the idea that because the land was located in Clifton Park, that it would be of use to only Clifton Park residents.
"Some people feel like it’s going to [belong to] one town, but that’s not true. Our parks are open to everybody,” he said.
The purchase agreement also includes a memorandum of understanding between the two bodies, in which they pledge to work together on planning the future of the land via a joint committee that includes members from both boards.
Town Supervisor Phil Barrett also attended the meeting, and noted that he already had ideas for ways the district and town can work together through the committee that go beyond just the land deal.
“I look forward to a more engaged partnership,” he said.
The memorandum of understanding states that the town will select a professional consulting firm to assist with the planning process, and that public meetings will be held as the plans for the land develop.
According to the MOU, Clifton Park will provide $300,000 to $500,000 to go toward planning efforts.
The two boards have yet to settle on a final closing date. The contract stipulates that the town will put down a deposit of $25,000 for the property, and will pay the remaining $1,075,000 at the sale closing. But first, the voters must have their say.