The Red Hook Town Board’s plan to purchase a 113-acre property along Route 9 that includes prime farmland and a parcel for affordable housing cleared a major hurdle this week after the board adopted two proposed zoning amendments.
The unanimous vote followed a public hearing Tuesday night that drew no opposition or comments from local residents. Combined, the zoning amendments will open up hundreds of new parcels upon which the town could place conservation easements or buy up land for use as public places such as parks. Read our coverage of the two zoning amendments here.
The changes are not just theoretical. The zoning changes clear the path for a major land acquisition as the town is now poised to purchase a property at 38 Cookingham Lane, heading north out of the Village of Red Hook on the east side of Route 9. The property consists of 10 parcels on 113 acres and includes rolling fields and forests that snake around a lake. The town has agreed to purchase the property for $2.475 million.
The amendments will allow the town to use money from its incentive zoning fund, which holds roughly $600,000, to purchase property outside the town’s Agricultural Business District (ABD). Previously, the town’s zoning laws only permitted the incentive zoning fund to be used to protect farmland in the ABD from development; now the town can use the property it purchases for affordable housing, too.
The amendments also allow the town to dip into the Community Preservation Fund (CPF) to pay for the rest of the 113-acre property. The CPF currently holds $3 million collected from a 2 percent tax on home real estate sales in the town of Red Hook, according to Town Supervisor Robert McKeon.
Once the town closes on the sale, the Town Board plans to place roughly 90 percent or 101 of the property’s 113 acres into a conservation easement, said McKeon. That will protect the land from development for decades, if not more. The town will set aside another 10 acres that do not contain farmland for future affordable housing development. The town has not yet lined up a developer for such a project. (Read our full coverage of what the town plans to do with the Cookingham Farm property here).
“Balancing land conservation with the need for affordable housing is in keeping with the goals of Red Hook’s Conservation Advisory Council,” CAC chair Laurie Husted wrote in a letter supporting the new zoning amendments this week. “We appreciate how the town is proceeding in its role to develop Red Hook in a way that is protective of the ecosystem while supporting human needs and enhancing our local economy.”
Several residents of the town have praised the purchase proposal. “Great plan from the Town Board,” Ross Williams wrote to The Daily Catch. “[This plan] preserves important farmland and preserves the aesthetics of the northern gateway to the village while also helping to meet community housing needs.”
But several expressed concerns about how the affordable housing property will be developed. “I don’t mean to be a naysayer, but how are 12 homes going to solve the housing crisis?” wrote Brian Fuhr. “That seems tone-deaf and out of touch with the scope of the issue. Conservation is a noble effort, but it should not be linked to a meager effort to assist the underserved in our community.”
A public hearing on the proposal to purchase the property is set for Wednesday, Feb. 22.