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Schenectady County plans to add to agriculture protection district

Schenectady County plans to add to agriculture protection district

Proposal would add 434 acres in Duanesburg and Rotterdam to farm protection program
Schenectady County plans to add to agriculture protection district
Fog blankets the Schoharie Valley in Duanesburg on a rainy May 24, 2013.
Photographer: Gazette file photo

SCHENECTADY COUNTY -- Crop land in Rotterdam and Duanesburg would be added to the Schenectady County Agricultural District, under a recommendation being considered by the County Legislature.

A public hearing on the proposed additions has been scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, April 2, at the county legislative chambers in Schenectady. The Legislature anticipates voting on the issue at its April 11 meeting.

The proposal, which was recommended by the county's Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board, would add eight parcels totaling 434 acres to the Agricultural District, bringing total area in the district to 19,637 acres, or about 15 percent of all the land in the county.

The purpose of agriculture districts is to keep farmland from being converted to other uses. The county reviews the district annually and, last year, added 211 acres.

Farms in an agricultural district can receive partial real property tax relief for not developing their land, and they enjoy protections against overly restrictive local laws, government-funded acquisitions or construction projects, and private nuisance lawsuits involving agricultural practices, according to the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.

"The Agricultural District helps to maintain agricultural lands and open space in Schenectady County," said County Legislature Chairman Anthony Jasenski, D-Rotterdam. "Maintaining a viable local agricultural industry is an important part of our economic development efforts."

Each year, the county looks for new properties to include or remove from the district, due to a lack of agricultural use. No properties are being removed during the current review.

The proposed additions include 150 acres in Duanesburg owned by Mark Lawrence, and, in Rotterdam, 129 acres owned by Harold Goodnow and 154 acres owned by Robert Murray.

"The properties are all in some level of agricultural use now," county planner Stephen Feeney said in an emailed statement. "Ag uses vary widely from field crops (corn, hay) to maple sap production and woodlots for lumber and firewood."

Most of the properties in the county agricultural district are in the western part of the county -- in Duanesburg, Princetown and Rotterdam -- though some property in Glenville is also included.

"Schenectady County is committed to our local farmers, and we actively encourage them to request inclusion in the agricultural district," said Legislator Holly Vellano, C-Rotterdam, chairwoman of the county's Committee on Environmental Conservation, Renewable Energy and Parks, which recommended approval.

If the Legislature approves the additions, they still must be approved by the state commissioner of agriculture and markets.

Reach Daily Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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