Land conservancy just $50K short of $1.2M goal for buying Bender melon farm

— From the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy

After receiving an extension in the spring until this month on its option to buy the former Bender melon farm in New Scotland, and after recently receiving an anonymous pledge of $250,000 toward its $1.2 million fundraising target, the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy is now just $50,000 short of its goal.

NEW SCOTLAND — With Thursday set as zero hour, the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy is within shouting distance of its $1.2 million goal to buy the former Bender melon farm. 

“We are very close but a number of things need to fall into place,” Conservancy Executive Director Mark King said on Monday.

King said that the pledges people have made to the conservancy still have to come in; the details of the sale still have to be finalized with the landowner; and the conservancy still has to work out the details of the possible sale of 20 of the property’s 198 acres along Route 85 across the road from Stewart’s to a potential commercial interest. 

On Wednesday afternoon, King said that the conservancy was “going right up to the wire on this one,” noting the organization was less than $50,000 short of its $1.2 million fund-raising goal.

But the good news for the conservancy is that it has to decide by Thursday whether it will exercise the option to buy, and, once the option is exercised, King said, it has a month to close, which is typical of any real-estate transaction in New York State — and it can continue to fundraise in the meantime. 

But King said the conservancy “needs to pull the trigger this week to say we can do it; we need the confidence to say yes or no.”  Thursday, Oct. 22, he said, “really is the deadline for us to say, ‘Yes we will go forward with the project because we are confident that, in the following months, [we can] get everything in order and be ready to sign the paperwork.’”

Asked Wednesday afternoon if the conservancy would exercise its option to buy the property, King said, “If I have to predict, I think that we will.” But King stressed, “I’m not going to say, ‘Yes,’ yet — there’s too many balls in the air right now; we are on the verge of deciding.” Adding, “Right now, it looks very positive that we will, but a couple pieces need to fit together here.”

The roughly 200 acres of open land near the intersection of routes 85 and 85A in New Scotland was once a farm that produced famous melons, served at the finest New York City restaurants.

A controversial proposal to build a mall there rallied the community to value the space. Recently, the Historic Hilton Barn was moved nearby, to save it, at a venue that has become popular along a reclaimed rail line — now a trail, stretching from Voorheesville to Albany, for hiking and biking.

King said that the pledges people have made to the conservancy still have to come in; the details of the sale still have to be finalized with the landowner; and the conservancy still has to work out the details of the possible sale of 20 of the property’s 198 acres along Route 85 across the road from Stewart’s to a potential commercial interest. 

“Depending on how all of those go,” King said, the conservancy is within $50,000 of its $1.2 million fund-raising goal to buy the land.

“We are really optimistic that we can get there,” he said.

The conservancy has never raised anything close to $50,000 is such a short period of time, King said, stressing, “This is the biggest lift we’ve ever tried to undertake.”

“We can continue to raise money and we will need to raise money right up till the last second,” he said, because there are so many costs associated with an acquisition like the former farm — it’s not just the land itself, there are other costs associated with acquiring the land, and the property will also need some improvements. 

If the conservancy can’t raise the money and can’t exercise its option to buy, King said, the land will just go back on the open market.

The current owners of the land, 306 Maple Road, LLC, are aware of the conservancy’s plans to sell off some of the land to help pay for the cost of acquiring the property, King previously told The Enterprise. “The owners are aware; we’ve discussed that. We’ve discussed a variety of potential outcomes with the owners.”

Earlier this month, the conservancy received an anonymous pledge of $250,000. King said at the time he was “not at liberty to divulge” who made the anonymous pledge, but he added that the quarter-million-dollar promise “really started the ball rolling in a whole different way.” 

Over a decade ago, Sphere Development proposed a 750,000 square-foot mall for the site. An organized public outcry first led to a six-month moratorium on commercial buildings over 30,000-square-feet, which eventually led to the adoption a size-cap law, and finally to the adoption of not one but two land-use plans:

— A specific plan for the New Scotland Hamlet, which includes the Bender melon farm; those zoning recommendations were adopted as law in May 2018; and

— An update to the town’s comprehensive plan, which was adopted in September 2018; those recommendations are currently being integrated into New Scotland’s existing zoning code. 

More New Scotland News

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  • The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy had set an ambitious $1.2 million fund-raising goal, which it exceeded when loans and grants were taken into account, to purchase the historic farm, but the not-for-profit’s director, Mark King, declined to say how much the conservancy paid for the 198-acre property at the corner of routes 85 and 85A in New Scotland.

  • After examining 400,000 real-estate transactions, a report found that, following the construction of a solar array, homes within one mile of the installation depreciated 1.7 percent. And homes just one-tenth of a mile, 528 feet, away from an installation ended up seeing a 7-percent drop in value.

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