Proposal adds 600 acres to Saratoga County agriculture district
SARATOGA COUNTY More than 600 acres in five communities would be added to the Saratoga County agriculture district program under a proposal now under review by county supervisors.
The seven properties, located in Wilton, Saratoga Springs, Clifton Park, Greenfield and Galway, range from hay fields to a thoroughbred breeding operation.
The Board of Supervisors will vote at a meeting today in Ballston Spa to schedule a public hearing on the proposed additions for Feb. 12 in Ballston Spa. The additions could then be approved at a meeting later that month.
The seven properties would be added to one of the two agricultural districts in the county, which currently comprise about 111,000 acres of land — about 20 percent of the entire county. The districts include about 275 farms.
County officials have generally encouraged the program as a way of preserving local agriculture, which is roughly a $100 million annual business in the county.
Agricultural districts, which are administered by the county and overseen by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets, provide for lower property assessments to farmers who agree not to have their land developed for a period of time. It also brings with it additional legal protections against neighbor complaints about agricultural practices.
“For the farmer, there’s really no downside to being part of an agriculture district,” said County Planner Jaime O’Neill.
The agriculture districts can be amended once a year. The seven properties are being considered for addition now as part of that annual process, she said.
The properties are in communities that are seeing population growth and increased demand for housing — the kind of development pressure an agriculture district is supposed to help farmers resist, if they don’t want to sell to a developer.
“The existence of this agricultural district helps to encourage the maintenance of existing farmlands and discourage the conversion of farmland to non-agricultural uses,” according to a program summary prepared for supervisors.
Each of the seven proposed additions is being used for an agricultural purpose, in some fashion.
The Wilton properties include about 130 acres along Route 50 owned by Louis Faraone or Donald Tooker and are used for lumber and firewood, pasture, vegetables and honey, according to application information.
In Saratoga Springs, the proposed addition is a 104-acre thoroughbred breeding and horse rehabilitation facility owned by veterinarian Dr. Burke Stowe on Hutchins Road.
In Galway, the proposed addition is a 36-acre hops farm owned by Camille Parisi on Route 29 near East Galway.
The other properties up for inclusion are 125 acres on Appleton Road in Clifton Park used for hay, and two different properties in Greenfield that are used for boarding horses.