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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 14, 2011

Open Space Institute protects historic property in Rensselaerville

By Zach Simeone

RENSSELAERVILLE — The Open Space Institute has acquired a 333-acre property from Albany County, one of the oldest farms in Rensselaerville, which it will protect from development by selling it to what it terms a “conservation buyer.”

“We call them conservation buyers because, we do want to sell the property to a private buyer, and make sure it stays in private ownership, and that will have the effect of ensuring the property stays on the local tax roles and provides valuable tax dollars to the community,” said Katie Stone, a land project manager and assistant counsel at the institute. “But, we also want to make sure that it’s going to be protected, and that its scenic and its open-space characteristics remain intact.”

The institute announced Monday the preservation of the Pal property, originally known as Conkling Farm, which it purchased from the county through its land acquisition affiliate, the Open Space Conservancy. This 18th-Century forest and farmland parcel is one of the town’s first settlements, according to a release from the institute, and has remained intact since its establishment, the only development on the land being the addition of a historic five-acre home site and farm outbuildings, which were added in 1806.

The institute purchased the property from Albany County on June 15 of this year at its unrestricted full fair-market value of $655,000, which was determined through an appraisal, said Stone. The county took ownership of it on March 30, 2005, according to Mary Duryea at the Albany County Executive’s Office.

Neither Stone nor Duryea were aware of the circumstances surrounding the previous owners’ leaving the property, or how long it had been since the land was farmed.

“Ultimately,” said Stone, “what I do know is that the county acquired it by way of a tax-lean foreclosure. So, for whatever reason, the family was unable to pay their taxes. It’s a historic farming property, but it hadn’t been farmed in a number of years.”

Though the county had purchased the property in 2005, it has not been used since.

“It was sitting there,” said Stone. “They weren’t free and clear to be able to sell the property until the past couple of years,” she said of the county. “So, although they acquired it by foreclosure in 2005, they had to resolve a number of title issues.”

The institute has protected more than 1,000 acres of land in the Helderbergs through the acquisition of conservation easements, according to the institute’s release. One such property is the 318-acre Ketcham farm, which lies north of Rensselaerville.

“A conservation easement is a deed between buyer and seller that restricts certain uses that can take place on the property,” Stone explained. “So, it will insure that they can do whatever, for example, farming they want to do, but it will restrict subdivision somewhat; it will restrict development somewhat.”

And, she said, there are a number of potential buyers for the old Conkling Farm in Rensselaerville.

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