BALLSTON – The Town Board on Tuesday voted 3-2 to proceed with a controversial water line extension into an agricultural district. [Read more…]
Although the Milton Farmland Protection and Preservation Committee was formed a little over a year ago, the panel has just recently taken significant steps to advance a plan. Town board member Frank Blaisdell, who is on the committee, updated the full town board at the April 3 meeting on the progress the committee has made.
According to Blaisdell’s report, agriculture represents a significant contribution to the economy both in Milton and in Saratoga County as a whole. According to data provided in the report, Saratoga County farms provided 1,382 full and part time jobs to 571 owners and operators. The farms sold approximately $39 million in agricultural products and spent $32 million at local businesses.
Additionally, farmers owned $214 million in lands and buildings and an additional $41 million in machinery and equipment.
“This combined $250 million in assets is an indication of the commitment of county farmers to their business and local economy,” Blaisdell said.
Blaisdell said there are currently 70 agriculture parcels in the town of Milton, which occupy in excess of 6,000 acres, or about 28 percent of the town’s acreage.
According to Blaisdell, by developing a farmland protection and preservation plan the town would be joining other Saratoga County towns such as Charlton, Stillwater and Moreau, who already have plans in place.
The Town of Ballston is currently working on their plan, and Saratoga Springs and Northumberland have a combined agriculture and recreation plan.
“Our farm protection plan will be consistent with the county’s green infrastructure plan,” Blaisdell said.
Blaisdell’s report listed the advantages of instituting a farm protection plan. The benefits include the support and encouragement of agriculture, keeping open space, preserving view sheds and wildlife habitats, protecting water resources, providing locally grown food and helping to keep the tax base low.
“It costs a lot less in government services and educational resources to maintain 40 cows on a 50-acre plot than it would to provide services for five families with children on the same piece of land,” Blaisdell said. “You don’t have to send cows to school.”
The committee has already selected Behan Communications, which has several offices in the Capital Region, to help with the development of the plan, Blaisdell said.
“We feel that Behan will do the best job for us based on their interest in the project, their familiarity with the town, and their commitment to spend the time needed,” he said.
Blaisdell said the committee will also apply for a $25,000 grant from New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. The town will match over 25 percent of the grant, or $8,500, with up to 80 percent of that contributed in in-kind services such as administrative work, he said.
Additional steps include land use surveys, public workshops, public hearings, reviews and approval from the town board, as well as approval from the Saratoga County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board and Agriculture and Markets.
“Hopefully we will fit comfortably into our town comprehensive plan,” Blaisdell said.
Supervisor Dan Lewza said the Town of Milton is dedicated to pursuing the farmland protection plan.
“I think it’s a very important aspect of the town residents to ensure that we give quality of life besides the parks and businesses,” he said. “This is a unique chance to go to other parts of town with open space, so we’re not just developing the town center. We can have the best of both worlds, so we can offer the whole package.”
Lewza is confident that the committee will develop the best plan for the town. “In order to provide a good town, you have to provide everything,” he said. “We’re developing a plan to ensure the farm land is protected.”
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