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Counsel reports former supervisor signed fraudulent TDR document

Open market system should work

— Scott Chatfield, a municipal and land use lawyer based in Central New York, gave a report on the status of Lysander’s Transfer of Development Rights program during the July 30 Lysander town board meeting. Chatfield was appointed as special counsel to handle TDR contracts and other materials earlier this summer by the Lysander Town Board.

After reviewing materials relating to the program, which has been in the works for a decade, Chatfield found that former Supervisor Barry Bullis signed one contract without the consent of the Lysander Town Board.

The contract was a purchase offer sent to Ag & Markets, which included a purchase contract between the town and the Abbotts in the amount of $782,000. This “fully executed purchase agreement,” as stated in the cover letter accompanying the contract, was to act as a catalyst in getting the TDR program off the ground. Ag & Markets would give the town a grant, which the town would use to pay Abbott Farms in exchange for keeping their farmland forever green. However, the town board never authorized the contract.

According to Chatfield, the contract is illegal and void based on the lack of town board authorization. The Attorney General is currently reviewing the fraudulent document and will determine if there is any criminal liability.

Chatfield also noted that when first proposed, development of the TDR program was anticipated to cost $9,000. To date, the town has spent $248,256 on the program, most of which was paid to Barton & Loguidice, the former engineering firm of Lysander. Chatfield said the town is unlikely to be able to recover the spent money.

Overall, Chatfield said TDR, which has been written into town law, is fundamentally sound. He said rather than creating a revolving fund overseen by the town, officials should allow the program to function through the open market system. There has never been a successfully used revolving fund in the state, he said, whereas the open market system has worked.

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