BETHLEHEM — The Town Board voted unanimously during its Feb. 13 meeting to formally move forward with acquiring eight acres of land, located near the intersection of Route 9W and Wemple Road in Glenmont, from the Albany County Land Bank.
Town Supervisor David VanLuven was authorized to sign the contract and other relevant documents pertaining the purchase which costs just $1. This does include recording and closing costs of $762.
According to town documents, “the Town will place a deed restriction on the parcel so that it will never be developed for residential, commercial or industrial purposes, which will benefit the adjacent neighborhoods.” This all connects with how town officials believe this is one way to conserve land while development continues throughout Bethlehem.
For now, the parcel comprises of 3.5 acres of constructed wetlands, 0.75 acres of natural wetlands, and 3.75 acres of upland forest and scrub. While it is landlocked, it is accessible by a 40-foot wide easement from Wemple Road. Plans for the parcel include protecting its wildlife habitat, ensuring water quality protection and possibly walking trails or recreational amenities for residents to enjoy.
Town Board member Dan Coffey wondered if there were any other plans for it but Bethlehem’s Economic Development and Planning director Robert Leslie confirmed, “For now, we’ll keep it as it is. At some point, if we have a desire to put in some trails, we’ll have that conversation with the board and certainly the Parks [and Recreation] Department. But nothing to be had at this time.”
ACLB had previously accepted Bethlehem’s application to purchase it back on Nov. 27, 2018.
ACLB executive director Adam Zaranko had spoken about this in a Feb. 7, 2019 conservation-themed event at the Five Rivers Environmental Education Center, saying that the Town of Bethlehem had first reached out to ACLB about their interest in the parcel. He added that had this parcel gone to auction, it most likely would have gone to the highest bidder like a developer.
“Under our relationship with Albany County, we control the flow of the property to make sure we get the highest and best use or outcome for it, which is not always necessarily the highest bidder or a developer there is,” Zaranko said.
“When this opportunity first came to our attention, we jumped on it because it’s mostly surrounded by agriculture today,” VanLuven recounted. “In 10 to 30 years, there’s a good chance it can be an oasis of nature and residential developments. Parks are a vital part of our town character and we need to be looking at developing them, not just for our needs today but also for our needs in the future.” He continued by expressing gratitude for the $1 figure and ACLB’s co-operation.
Town Board member Jim Foster also recognized this as a financially responsible way to preserve open space and that it is a “win-win-win across the board.” He correlated this with how the topics of conservation and development have long been discussed among officials and residents alike, and that this was a positive step forward.
For more information on land conservation, visit www.townofbethlehem.org/783/Open-Space-Planning.