The Saratogian

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Ballston investigating sewering lake district, business coordinator

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Deputy County Clerk hire criticized

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Deal to preserve farm finally finished – Funding comes to buy development rights of property

A farm in the countryside east of Saratoga Lake will remain open land forever under a deal struck six years ago that has finally become a reality. The town of Saratoga on Thursday signed paperwork to pay $1.3 million for the development rights to 390 acres on Cedar Bluff and Wayville roads owned by John and Barbara Hoogeveen, using money from New York state and Saratoga County. The transaction means the land can never been developed for uses other than agriculture. The Hoogeveens, who are in their 80s, are retired from farming and plan to sell the farmland at a lower price because of the new restrictions on it to local dairy farmers Marty and Pat Hanehan. The Hanehan brothers have rented the Hoogeveen farm since 2000 and currently keep heifers and dry cows — ones that don’t require milking — in the former dairy barn. They also grow corn, alfalfa and other crops on the land. “They’re very familiar with what they are getting,” John Hoogeveen said.

The purchase of development rights deal signed Thursday at Saratoga Town Hall in Schuylerville was the final pending transaction for the county’s land preservation program. The county ended its $500,000-per-year land preservation program in 2012 because of budget pressures. The state, meanwhile, has not been accepting new applications for farmland funding while it catches up with a backlog of projects that were approved but unfunded like the Hoogeveens’. Thursday’s closing became possible after Gov. Andrew Cuomo in November released $987,268 in funding the state approved in 2008 that wasn’t appropriated during the years of the state’s financial crisis. The county put in $328,000 as the local share of the deal. The state’s agreement in 2008 was to pay about $2 million for the development rights, but the state then significantly reduced the grant, as it has with other farm protection grants, after the recession reduced land values. When Cuomo released the funding, he said farmland protection efforts to date have secured the development rights to 51,000 acres across the state. “These grants are helping to ensure that thousands of acres of farmland remain in production, which helps local economies grow and supports a way of life for future generations of farmers and their families,” Cuomo said. With the latest deal, Saratoga County has preserved or helped to preserve 2,300 acres of farmland, said County Planner Jaime O’Neill. “We’ve been able to use federal, state and county resources to really leverage a lot,” she said. The Hoogeveen farm is in a rural section of Saratoga with many farms, but O’Neill said the farm was nevertheless feeling development pressure. The deal to buy the development rights first began to come together after the Hoogeveens were approached by a developer, whom they turned down. “It’s kind of a good farming corridor, but it’s close to the lake and it’s close to Stillwater, and as you get down into Stillwater you see more houses and subdivisions popping up,” O’Neill said. Saratoga Town Supervisor Thomas N. Wood said he’s pleased that open space is being preserved. “It’s very prime agricultural land, and I’m very glad to see that it will remain in agricultural production,” he said. The Hoogeveens are natives of the Netherlands. They both grew up on farms and saw the trauma of World War II during their youths. They came to the United States in 1952 and bought their farm from a retiring farmer in 1961. The Hoogeveens milked as many as 130 cows while John Hoogeveen actively ran the farm, from 1961 to 1989. Their son then operated the farm until 1999, when he decided to leave the business. The Hanehan brothers have rented the property since 2000. The couple, who have a house on a building lot subdivided from the farm, said they’re glad their farm will continue. “He’s a farmer deep down in his heart,” Barbara Hoogeveen said of her husband. There are no other farm preservation projects on the immediate horizon in Saratoga County, which for decades has seen farms slowly give way to housing subdivisions. Wood, a former chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, said he hopes the county will eventually resume providing money for preservation projects, as it did from 2003 to 2011. Over that time, the county spent $4.9 million to buy parkland or preserve farms, securing additional state funding for five farmland projects. “Maybe in a couple of years, if the county’s finances turn around,” Wood said. O’Neill continues to discuss the idea of buying development rights from farmers, even though there’s no immediate promise of further funding. “I’m in the process of speaking to people,” she said. “It’s a large decision and a big learning curve for the landowners.”

Yepsen taps Ogden to be deputy mayor

Mayor-elect Joanne Yepsen has chosen an examiner for the state Division of Budget to serve as her deputy.  Joseph Ogden will become the full-time deputy mayor following Yepsen’s inauguration on New Year’s Day. The 33-year old city resident is a graduate of Siena College, has a master’s degree from the University at Albany and comes to the position with a decade of work experience, most recently as an associate budget examiner for the state. Yepsen said Ogden, who worked on her campaign, was the most qualified among a pool of candidates who applied for the position. She said he has valuable policy experience in a number of areas, including public safety, homeland security, disaster relief, veterans’ affairs and Medicaid. “Joe brings a great deal of professionalism to this position, and he has extensive experience with fiscal policy, budgeting, management and government operations,” Yepsen said. Ogden will replace Shauna Sutton, who served for six years under Republican Scott Johnson. Sutton, who challenged Yepsen for the mayor’s position, has since taken a job as a deputy to Craig Hayner, the Republican who was elected Saratoga County clerk in November. “I am excited and humbled to accept this position, and I look forward to working together with Mayor-elect Yepsen to make Saratoga Springs an even better place to raise a family,” Ogden said in a statement. Ogden will take a pay cut to leave his state job and join Yepsen’s administration. Records show he earned an annual salary of $77,000 at the state — about $8,000 more than the deputy mayor is slated to be paid in 2014.  “He really believes in where we’re going with the city,” Yepsen said. “This means so much to him.”  Yepsen also appointed a new city attorney. City native Sarah Burger comes from the Albany law firm Gleason, Dunn, Walsh & O’Shea, where she specialized in employment litigation, labor law, public- and private-sector labor relations and contract negotiation. Burger will be paid an annual salary of $58,000.  Yepsen said Burger’s experience will be an asset to her office. She said a number of labor contracts will need to be negotiated in the near future, and Burger’s expertise will be welcomed. “She’s going to be perfect,” she said. “Although there’s a budget line for outside counsel, there are perhaps some areas in those contracts that Sarah will help me resolve.” In November, Yepsen appointed a transition team of Charles Kuenzel, Cassie Fox, Lynn Bachner, Jennifer Leidig, former Mayor Ken Klotz, former Public Works Director William McTygue, Georgana Hanson and Alisa Dalton. The group helped select her appointees from a pool of candidates she solicited after winning the mayor’s job.

Stewart’s seeking shop on Sitterly

Stewart’s Shops will propose a new convenience store near the Clifton Park Center mall, at the heart of the Exit 9 commercial zone. The regional chain has an option to buy 1.5 acres at the corner of Clifton Park Center and Sitterly roads and hopes to be able to break ground in the spring, said Stewart’s real estate representative Tom Lewis. A store at that spot would give Stewart’s its first location in close proximity to Exit 9 and the mall, though there are other Stewart’s shops within a few miles in any direction. “It’s [a location] I think we’ll do well at,” Lewis said. The land is being purchased from Ellis Hospital, which has an urgent care center just to the east on Sitterly Road. The location sees large volumes of traffic passing by because of its proximity to the mall, but the apartments and subdivisions that lie off of Sitterly Road in Halfmoon are a more important consideration, Lewis said. The proposed store would have about 3,000 square feet of interior space and would employ the larger display area found in the newest Stewart’s Shops. The proposed store would also have gas pumps, Lewis said. The town of Clifton Park hasn’t received an application for site plan approval, but Lewis said he expects it to be filed within 30 days. “We hope to break ground in the spring,” he said. Lewis said the land just a stone’s throw from the Northway has been eyed by the Stewart’s corporation since 1996. At the time, it was owned by land developer Peter Belmonte Sr. Lewis said the company and Belmonte negotiated periodically over many years without coming to terms. Ellis Hospital bought the six acre property a few months ago and subsequently agreed to subdivide land at the corner to sell to Stewart’s. “That’s how long we’ve been negotiating for that piece of property. I’m a patient man,” Lewis said. The seemingly ubiquitous convenience store chain, which is known in equal measure for its quick lunches, milk, ice cream and coffee, has 331 stores throughout northeastern New York. It is headquartered in Malta and has its manufacturing facility just outside of Saratoga Springs in the town of Greenfield.

Saratoga Springs – Stores busy in wake of holiday

The Christmas shopping season may have come to an end, but many local retailers were still flooded with shoppers on Thursday. Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga Springs just completed its first holiday season in the Capital Region after the highly anticipated opening of their new location last summer. Nancy Scheemaker, the Northshire general manager, said it was a wonderful holiday season for the store and the day after Christmas was the same. She said some customers came into the store Thursday looking to purchase books for an upcoming vacation or looking to spend the gift card they received for Christmas. She said she even had customers come in to buy Christmas presents for family gatherings over the next few days. “It has been a great day after Christmas here,” she said. Northshire also had a few customers looking to make returns and exchanges. Scheemaker said customers who received two of the same book or customers looking to return a book for another stopped in as well. But she also said returns and exchanges do not necessarily happen the day after Christmas. “I don’t think there is any one way that it goes,” she said. “I think it is when people find their way to the bookstore, pretty soon after the Christmas holiday.” Overall, Scheemaker said she was very pleased with the first Christmas season at Northshire. “It was a great season. It was a wonderful first Christmas for us here in Saratoga Springs,” she said. “They are, as promised, visiting the bookstore and buying books.” Local retail giants like Sears found their stores very busy on the day after Christmas, too. According to Rick Lebel, the store manager at Sears in the Rotterdam Square mall, the most traffic in the store seemed to come from people looking to take advantage of after-Christmas sales and deals. “It is a busy time for us,” he said, “because you are transitioning from Christmas to the spring season.” Sears in Rotterdam also saw some returns and exchanges the day after Christmas, but like Northshire, there weren’t many, Lebel said. “People usually tend to give it a couple days before they really start coming back,” he said. The exchanges Sears did see were mostly people looking to return electronics to get something better, Lebel said. Roger Goldsmith, the owner of Crafters Gallery in Saratoga Springs, said they do not have many returns after Christmas. “We get very few returns and exchanges,” he said. “But it’s usually within 10 days after the holiday.” Most people returning items at the speciality gift store want a different style or color picture frame, he said. Like at Northsire and Sears, Goldsmith said Thursday was busy and his store experienced a steady flow of customers. “Not overwhelming busy,” he said. “But actually a little busier than last year.”

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