Picard farm conserved: ‘That view is there forever’

— Photo from the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy

An 1800s barn complex along with the farmhouse across Picard Road in the grove are part of a seven-acre parcel not covered by a conservation easement, meaning that land can be used commercially although there are no immediate plans to do so.

NEW SCOTLAND — Future generations will be able to enjoy an iconic view of the Helderbergs from Picard Road since the land surrounding the once-popular community gathering place, Picard’s Grove, is now under a conservation easement.

The deal, months in the making and involving a court ruling, was sealed earlier this month.

Richard Glover, a neighbor of Picard’s Grove, working with the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, purchased the 87-acre property for $665,000.

“It’s a solution that worked for everyone,” said Mark King, executive director of the conservancy. He named Richard Glover and his wife, Valerie, and Jeanne Picard Fish, who had owned the property, as well as “all the people who love the view” and those who care about filling the gap in the Helderberg Conservation Corridor.

“I await the day when I see him riding a horse on that land; he’s a big horseman,” King said of Glover. Fish herself was a dedicated equestrian.

Valerie Glover described herself and her husband as “low-key people.” She worked as a pharmacist and he is a dentist. They used their retirement savings to purchase the property, Mrs. Glover said. “It was a tough decision,” she said.

Once they made the offer, the Glovers faced an unexpectedly long wait. “We waited a long, grueling time … It lasted eight months,” said Mrs. Glover.

But, the purchase also fulfilled a lifelong dream for the two of them. “If I won the Lotto, I wanted to keep the land forever wild,” said Mrs. Glover. Of the Picard farm they purchased, she said, “We felt it was too beautiful a piece of property to be bulldozed.”

The Glovers moved to the area 36 years ago and have watched rapid development in that time. Dr. Glover grew up in Queens and Mrs. Glover is from Utica; they settled between the two places.

The Glovers plan to continue to live in their current home, on property that adjoins the Picard farm. They have been cleaning out “generations of collections” from the historic farmhouse, Mrs. Glover said. “The house is full of 100 years of stuff.”

Some items are going to the local historical society. Mrs. Glover took towels and blankets to the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society. She is keeping an eye out for Fish’s wedding dress. “She wants to be buried in her wedding dress,” said Mrs. Glover, adding, “I found the veil.”

Mrs. Glover notes that, although the house needs work, it is structurally sound. The Glovers hope to find someone who “can bring it back to life again.”

The Picard farm was originally settled by William Allen who was born in Perth, Scotland. After marrying, Allen came to America and settled at the base of the Helderberg escarpment in 1779, according to neighbor Chris Albright, who has researched the property’s history.

Allen had seven daughters and, when he died in 1805, he left the property to his wife and, after her death, to their two youngest unmarried daughters, Martha and Margaret. After their mother died, the farm was split evenly into two 97-acre parcels.

The farm stayed in the family until 1916 when it was sold to Herman E. Picard who had immigrated to the United States, from Germany, in 1897. He started Picard’s Grove soon after purchasing the property. It continued to be operated by two more generations of Picards.

“We’d love to see the grove working again, to have Jeannne’s dream of a restaurant reopening,” said Mrs. Glover. She and her husband, she said, are not up to that task, but she can picture people riding horses on the land in the summer and tobogganing there in the winter, coming in for hot cocoa.

The couple own two horses and enjoy trail riding; they envision having trails on their newly acquired land.

“We’re doing this for the love of the land and for the animals that have no voice,” said Mrs. Glover. She enjoys watching the deer and other wildlife on the property and says, while she has been cleaning out the house, countless people have stopped by to take pictures.

“We are blessed and privileged,” Mrs. Glover said, concluding, “It is my wish that more people will choose to do and stand up to protect that which cannot protect itself.”

“A wonderful relief”

“This came a little out of left field … and became very complicated,” said King this week of conserving the property. “It did not seem like things would come together.”

The saga started late last year when Fish, 75, who grew up on the property, was declared “incapacitated” on Dec. 26, 2019, according to a petition filed in State Supreme Court, Albany County. She is now living in Barnwell Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Valatie.

King said he had been unable to communicate with Fish about the sale since the nursing home has been shut to visitors to stop the spread of COVID-19. He said the Glovers had sent clothes and treasured items from her home to Fish that might serve as “memory triggers.”

“If she could understand, I think she’d be very pleased,” King said of the land largely remaining undeveloped.

“A key element,” King said of the conservancy making its case to the court, “was the number of people with sworn affidavits that this is what Jeanne would have wanted for her land.”

Herman Picard III, Fish’s brother and the court-appointed guardian of her person, called the sale to Glover “a wonderful relief.”

He went on, “Everything has happened for the best. I expected bulldozers coming in … Now you’ll still be able to watch the hay grow. I thank The Enterprise for getting the word out, which I believe had a lot to do with the outcome.”

He also said, “Everybody in the family is pretty happy with the transaction.”

Picard plans now to move Fish to Atria in Guilderland, which is closer to home and a much nicer facility, he said. “As soon as there is an opening, we’re going to move her,” he said.

Fish had become “very, very thin,” Picard said, but was eating better now and was “putting on some weight.”

She can’t understand that the property has been sold, he said, and largely lives in the past. “When I talked to her Friday, she thought we were going to have a party at the picnic grove,” he said.

When Fish asks about her horses, her brother tells her they are doing fine. “She doesn’t know about the four that had to be put down,” he said.

 

Legal history

The lawyer who was appointed guardian of Fish’s property, Joseph L. Kay, had planned to quickly sell, for $500,000 in cash, the property, house, outbuildings, and all of their contents to developer Michael Biernacki.

Kay had asserted in his petition that the 1800s barn and farmhouse on the property were to be demolished and, according to the sales contract, all of the contents of the house, barn, and two large out buildings that served as a restaurant and dance hall, were to become the property of Biernacki.

No Realtor was involved and no appraisal was given.

According to Albany County rolls, the property had a full-market value of $764,348. The 86.71 acres alone were assessed at $192,400.

Relatives and friends of Fish told The Enterprise earlier that they believed the proposed quick sale of Fish’s property was not in her best interest and further that she would not have wanted to see a housing development on the family farm.

After The Enterprise story ran in January, several other offers for the property came in. King had told The Enterprise earlier that the conservancy experienced an outpouring of interest in preserving the Picard’s Grove property after stories and an editorial were published in The Enterprise.

The conservancy has been working for years to protect lands along Picard Road at the base of the escarpment as part of the larger Helderberg Conservation Corridor, which has about 3,500 acres that are protected or planned for protection.

King said this week, “The focus historically has always been on Thacher Park.” But more recently, the public has seen the value of conserving land below the escarpment not just to protect views but also the quality forests, wetlands, and wildlife.

“So many good things come together,” said King.

In April, Judge Paul V. Morgan decided that Fish’s personal property was to be inventoried and also had the court appoint “a competent, disinterested person to appraise the property.”

The court-ordered appraisal found the property had a market value of $845,000. 

In August, the way was cleared for the conservancy when Judge Morgan chose among three separate purchase orders for the property.

Morgan chose Glover, working with the conservancy, although Glover’s offer was $5,000 less than developer Jeff Thomas’s offer. 

“The issue herein is whether the property should be sold to the highest bidder or should the Court consider accepting a lesser offer if consistent with Jeanne Picard Fish’s wishes,” wrote Morgan. “The Court finds the latter is applicable to the proceeding herein.”

 

“Priceless”

The court specified that 80 percent of the property must be preserved. Consequently, two seven-acre pieces of property are being broken off from the part that will be under the conservation easement.

One of the seven-acre parcels is around the existing house and structures, King said. The other is at the northeast corner, where Martin and Picard roads intersect. There are no immediate plans to build on those parcels, King said.

The property can be used for recreation or agriculture, said King, noting the land has rich soil.

King also noted how contentious negotiations had been at times. “At least six attorneys were involved with different viewpoints,” he said. “Everyone stayed with it. It’s almost miraculous it happened.”

King praised the work of attorney Nicole Clouthier for the conservancy. “She was smart and attentive. She dug in and made the difference,” he said.

He also credited the “wonderful neighbors and donors who stepped up” to quickly raise funds.

Between legal fees and paying for the conservation easement itself, King said the conservancy had spent an estimated $125,000, helping Glover acquire the property.

King did not want to reveal the amount that the conservancy paid Glover for the easement but did say, “Six-hundred-and-sixty-five-thousand dollars went into the purchase of the property.”

He stressed that a conservation easement does not make the property open to the public.

“It remains private. It stays on the tax rolls,” said King, adding, “It’s so visible, we all get to enjoy it.”

King concluded, “It was costly but the purchase is priceless … It will mean that view is there forever.”

More New Scotland News

  • The schools will remain open for in-person instruction.

  • 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.

  • 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.

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.