Warwick reaps $570,360 from open space program

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:51

    Money will be used to purchase development rights at 200-acre Brady farm By David Gordon Warwick - With the vista of an open field at his back earlier this week, Orange County Executive Edward Diana announced the recipients of county grants to preserve open space. Brady Mountain Angus Farm in Warwick, the scene of Diana's announcement, was the top applicant among 17 submitted. In all, eight received county open space preservation funding totaling $2.5 million. This money, along with local matching funds, buys development rights or outright purchase of 965 acres. The funds require a local match. "The $2.5 million handed out today leverages almost twice as much," said Orange County Planning Board Chairman Susan Metzger. The Town of Warwick received $570,360 toward purchase of the development rights to the 200-acre Brady farm. The total cost is $1,901,200. Federal funds and Scenic Hudson will cover most of the town's match, said Supervisor Michael Sweeton. "We will end up paying very little of this," he added. To date, 1,300 acres in the Town of Warwick have been set aside for preservation, with plans for 700 to 800 additional acres in the works, Supervisor Michael Sweeton said. The value of the properties totals $11 million; the cost to the town has been $5.5 million with funds from Washington, Albany and Scenic Hudson making up the difference. In addition to preserving a working farm, the Brady Farm provides habitat for diverse plants and animals. And, noted Warwick Mayor Michael Newhard, the property straddles the village reservoirs and contains much of the watershed for the village water supply. Meanwhile, the Town of Goshen will receive $634,725 toward purchase of development rights to Knoell Farm, which will cost a total of $1,410,500. This 169.5-acre purchase includes prime soils and soils of statewide significance, according to the project description. It also includes the Black Meadow Creek corridor, habitat for a variety of plants and animals, and scenic vistas. The farm is also adjacent to the Orange County Heritage Trail and the town's proposed bicycle-pedestrian path. The county will also fund a portion of the cost of buying the development rights to North Star Farm, also known as Rhodes Farm. The development rights to this 131.8-acre horse farm will cost $1,105,700, of which the county is picking up $400,000. The purchase helps to protect the watershed of one of Goshen's reservoirs. "People are moving out of New York City in droves," Diana said. "We appreciate the growth, but we want to preserve the values we have had. Today we preserved nearly 1,000 acres of open space." The county has allocated $20 million to open space preservation to be spent over the next five years. In addition, money from the Orange County Water Authority will be used to preserve watershed areas. However, Michael Edelstein, former president of Orange Environment and the Democrat and Working Families candidate for county executive in the next county election, said Diana's action is too little, too late. "Eddie ran, in part, as an open space candidate," he said. "Now on the eve of his term being up, he makes this announcement." The county's open-space bond provides for $20 million over five years, but in the first year, only $2 million from the bond is being spent, he said. Edelstein has criticized Diana in the past for holding an excessive amount of taxpayers' money in unspent fund balances, popularly known as surpluses. He noted that of the estimated $50 million-plus surplus acknowledged by Diana, $6 million to $7 million could have funded all 17 eligible applications. It is important to buy development rights or conservation easements as quickly as possible, because demand for land is so high, and there is so much pressure on farmers to sell to developers, Edelstein said. Diana's legacy could be the land that was lost through slow action, rather than the amount that was saved. Diana said Edelstein was off base, and that the county would be awarding another $900,000 in the fall. The funding for next year could be more than the $3.5 million approved this year, and it would certainly not be less, he said.