May 22, 2012 Erin Wisneski Uncategorized
Lysander officials may have to make a decision on the Transfer of Development Rights program whether ready or not.
During the Monday, May 14, town board meeting, Warren Abbott, owner of Abbott Farms on Route 370, said he is considering suing the town over a grant awarded to Lysander in 2006 that was supposed to jumpstart the TDR program and be used to purchase 75 percent of the development rights from a major portion of his property. In exchange, the land would remain forever farmland.
“I have consulted a lawyer,” he said adding the town solicited him to be part of TDR eight years ago and since then he has invested time and his own money into the program.
After giving a presentation regarding his involvement with the TDR program, which has been in development for eight years, Abbott asked officials why they haven’t accepted the grant from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.
Officials said they were looking into the specifics of the program, and hadn’t ruled out any course of action. Councilor Andy Reeves also said the grant application was incomplete, a point that Abbott contested. Both referenced David Behm of NYS Dept. of Agriculture and Marketing (Messenger calls to Behm have not been returned) regarding the grant’s state of completion.
“Dave Behm is a state employee, not a Lysander resident,” said Supervisor John Salisbury. “He thinks it’s a great idea because it is the first in the state, but he’s not paying the bills.”
Salisbury added he was concerned about increased housing on the Cold Springs Peninsula because the infrastructure could not handle it and the residents would have to pay for expensive sewer systems should the existing ones fail.
Officials also discussed a stipulation in current TDR law that states the town will have to pay Abbott Farms approximately $142,000 should the development rights in the TDR bank not sell (this would cover the remaining 25 percent value of development rights from Abbott Farms). However, Abbott said he would be in favor of eliminating that portion of the law to ease officials’ concerns.
As an alternative to the grant, officials suggested Abbott consider selling his development rights directly to a developer, as this was already written into existing TDR law. Abbott said the real estate market doesn’t work well when sold directly as farmers typically won’t sell when prices are rising and developers want to buy; then when prices are dropping and farmers want to sell, developers hold out on buying. For this reason, TDR incorporated a revolving bank, which the grant would bankroll thus avoiding a stalemate, Abbott said.
Before closing his discussion with the board, Abbott made it clear he wanted the grant to be pushed through.
“I don’t want to go the legal route,” he said.
Lysander is also facing a lawsuit filed by the former dog control officer, who is suing the town for wrongful termination. The contract was terminated March 31 of this year. The town has since hired a new dog control officer, Ron Patchett.