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Clifton Park developer must assist rare Karner blue butterfly

Tuesday, September 25, 2012
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— The town will require a developer that wants to get a site ready for industrial development to protect Karner blue butterflies, an endangered species.

At Phase 1 of the DCG light industrial park on Ushers Road, preliminary site work has finished and the site is “shovel-ready” for a developer to build whatever it wants. The town Planning Board is expected to vote in the coming weeks on Phase 2 of that development, a proposed 16-acre expansion of a tract between Ushers and Wood roads that is visible from the Adirondack Northway.

The total park would be 32.83 acres, and 0.57 acres would be required to be set aside in the northwest part of the property for the Karner blue, whose caterpillar feasts on the wild blue lupine.

The plan also requires a minimum 50-foot buffer around the habitat that won’t be mowed.

A public hearing was held Sept. 11 on the project, at which environmental advocates spoke about the potential harm to the delicate butterflies.

That public hearing will be continued at a future meeting because the Planning Board wanted more information from DCG, said John Scavo, town planning director.

“They have some questions for the applicant to address with the habitat management plan,” he said.

The butterflies haven’t been seen at the site since 2007 but may still be there, Scavo said. The plan calls for the company to reintroduce the insects if they aren’t spotted in a reasonable amount of time, say, seven or 10 years, he said.

The Planning Board wants more information about when and how exactly the insects would be reintroduced, he said.

All the work is the price a private landowner has to pay to develop an area an endangered species calls home.

“Basically, what you’re seeing is what would be done on public land like the Pine Bush Preserve,” Scavo said. “We’re putting that burden on a private developer.”

The frosted elfin butterfly, a state-designated threatened species, is present at the site. Both species’ larvae eat the wild blue lupine, which grows in open meadow pine barren habitats.

DCG also will be responsible for maintaining the pine barren habitat with a twice-yearly cutting of vegetation, Scavo said. Otherwise, sapling trees in the meadow will grow up and the area will become wooded.

A DCG-hired consultant will monitor its management of the habitat, he said.

DCG Development Co. of Clifton Park also owns Clifton Park Center mall and several office parks and retail centers in Saratoga County.

 
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