Dec 16, 2008 Erin Smith Uncategorized
Six years ago, development threatened the scenic view of the Seneca River valley.
At that time, a developer had purchased the old Melvin Farms property and was requesting a zone change from the town board to double the amount of homes he could place on the  acres of land to 600 units. Residents came out in force during the public hearing to protest the zone change.
“There was a perception this would change the look of the peninsula, which residents were opposed to,” said Lysander supervisor Barry Bullis. “They wanted the town to stop it.”
While an unfavorable traffic study caused the developer to withdraw his zone change application, the process and residents’ reactions prompted the board to take a hard look at growth on the Cold Springs Peninsula: evaluating the area’s unique characteristics and reviewing the town’s comprehensive plan.
According to the 2000 census, Lysander is the fastest growing town in central New York and Cold Springs is an ideal place to move to because it has the best of both worlds — close proximity to the city and a country-like environment due to a mixture of farmlands and developments. In addition to the surroundings, the peninsula also has the capacity for increased utilities such as water and sewage. On the other hand, with three access routes (Route 48 bridge in Baldwinsville, Belgium Bridge along Route 31 and the Route 370 bridge near Onondaga Lake Park) from the city of Syracuse, the peninsula doesn’t have the road infrastructure to support a significant increase in traffic to the area, so growth is limited.
To preserve the agricultural vistas while providing equitable and sustainable growth, officials needed a way to preserve farmlands and encourage smart development.
“We’re better off concentrating development where utilities are and keeping open spaces and large land masses in areas that can’t handle the infrastructure,” said Town Engineer Robert Hornaday of Barton & Loguidice.
Engineers at Barton & Loguidice began brainstorming solutions to Lysander’s issue and came up with the Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) concept. TDR, also known as Lysander’s Farm Protection Plan, allows a farmer to sell the development rights of his/her property while maintaining ownership and agricultural use of the land. A permanent easement is then placed on the land preventing it from ever being developed beyond one building per 25 acres. The purchased development rights are then sold to developers wishing to increase the density of their properties (thereby increasing the amount of units they can build in an area). The money generated from the sale is then used to purchase more development rights from farmland owners, the rights are sold to developers and the cycle continues through this revolving fund concept.
Lysander officials pitched the concept to the New York State Agricultural and Marketing Department through a grant application in 2005.
“We didn’t meet their criteria, but they liked the concept and told us to resubmit the application the following year so they could amend the rules,” Bullis said.
The following year, Lysander was awarded a $1,007,000 grant to get the program off the ground and running. The $1 million figure was based on three farms eligible for farmland protection: Abbott’s farm (Route 370), Thompson’s farm (upper Patchett Road) and Hole farm (dead end portion of Patchett Road). The grant will be used to purchase the development rights from these farms, which will then be placed in a bank to be sold to developers. Meanwhile, the farmland is placed in a conservation easement and preserved from development.
To be continued. Next week will feature the development rights bank and other program specifics.