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Skaneateles town board considers new committee for land conservation

The Skaneateles Town Board heard a report from town planner Howard Brodsky about the possibility of appointing a new committee, at its March 7 meeting.

The Open Space Committee would serve the purpose of paying residents with large plots of land to have a conservation easement put on part or all of the land, Brodsky said.

The town has more than $110,000 it has collected from landowners who have to pay fees if they build anything and the property then exceeds 10 percent impermeable surface coverage.

Impermeable surface coverage means space where rainfall is unable to soak into the ground. This includes buildings and any paved areas. The ten percent figure was set by Onondaga County because high amounts of impermeable surface coverage have been found to have negative effects on the environment and the local watershed.

The goal of the committee would be to work towards getting the entire local watershed lower than 10 percent impermeable coverage by having large areas of undeveloped land with zero percent coverage.

The areas that would have conservation easements would remain undeveloped, but would still be privately owned and would not become available for hiking trails or any other public use.

The watershed in the town is not currently under 10 percent because there are houses that were built in the 1950s or 60s before the current laws were in places that have as much as 40 percent impermeable coverage.

The landowners would not profit off of their payment, it would just be used to cover legal fees to make the easements official, Brodsky said.

The board was in favor of appointing the committee, but wouldn’t deal with specifics until Brodsky’s report had also been reviewed by the town planning board and the zoning board of appeals, supervisor Terri Roney said.

The new committee would not require any new legislation because the town already has the power to appoint such a committee, though it had not been done in the past, Roney said.

Also from the meeting:

— The board approved updates to the town farmer’s market rules and regulations. The updates included changing Saturday hours from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. instead of starting at 10 a.m.

— The board acknowledged a letter from Seniors of Skaneateles, which said that the group will have to disband in June due to lack of participation and leadership, unless more people get involved.

Joe Genco is the editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at editor@skaneatelespress.com.

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