Friday, 11 November 2016 13:19
City to Vote Tuesday on Future of Pitney Farm
SARATOGA SPRINGS — If all goes as expected, a final vote will take place by the Saratoga Springs City Council on Nov. 15 to approve the contract between the city, Pitney Meadows Community Farm and a third-party enforcer, Agricultural Stewardship Association (ASA), for the city to pay $1.16 million to purchase a conservation easement to historic Pitney Farm on West Avenue. “The easement is, in effect, an insurance policy that protects the land,” said city Mayor Joanne Yepsen. A contract of sale for the farm was signed between the Pitney Family and the newly created 501(c)(3), Pitney Meadows Community Farm. Should the council vote to approve on Nov. 15, the only remaining detail will be the closing, which is expected to take place on Dec. 15. According to a timeline released by the mayor’s office, future use proposals of the Pitney Farm date back to 1994 when the City Council unanimously approved the Open Space Plan, prepared by the Saratoga Springs Open Space Project. At that time, the Plan recommended “priority” be given to the lands located along “lower West Avenue,” including the Pitney Farm. In 2002, the City Council unanimously adopted the “2002 Open Space Plan Update,” specifically identifying the 154-year-old Pitney Farm for high priority conservation because of its importance as one of the city’s few remaining “Agricultural Heritage Lands.” The updated Plan recommended conservation through a technique known as “Purchase of Development Rights,” using a conservation easement to protect lands in perpetuity. By 2014, the Pitney family, along with local farmers Mike Kilpatrick of Granville. and Sandy and Mike Arnold of Argyle, created their vision for the future of the Pitney Farm and began discussions with Saratoga PLAN. The discussions included the sale of title to the land to Saratoga PLAN, with the city of Saratoga simultaneously purchasing the conservation easement, thereby securing the Pitney’s vision for the property in perpetuity. The farm has been in the Pitney family since 1862 and they were adamant that the land remain exclusively as an agricultural resource for the community. The project hit a temporary bump in the road when Saratoga PLAN decided to withdraw its involvement in the plan due to differences in vision between Saratoga PLAN and the Pitney family. At that point, the Arnolds and Kilpatrick, with the help of a board of advisors, set about creating the 501(c)(3) and moving forward with the Pitney’s vision for the land. They received their certification as a 501(c)(3) in the mail on Nov. 3 - two days after the City Council unanimously approved the use of Open Space funds to purchase the conservation easement. The new vision for the farm by the Pitneys, Arnolds and Kilpatrick includes the creation of a community agricultural resource center to function as a teaching facility and incubator, as well as offering access to the community to cultivate gardens and enjoy nature trails on the 166-acre property. The role of ASA is to ensure the plans are being adhered to in exactly the way they have been formulated by the Pitney family and the 501(c)(3). Once the City Council votes to approve the inclusion of ASA as third party enforcer, the path will be clear to hold the closing on Dec. 15. “Following that,” said Sandy Arnold, “we will continue with our fundraising and branding efforts for the farm.