By Edie Johnson
Blooming Grove – Just about 5 years ago some of the top environmental experts in the county came to Blooming Grove and helped with the hard work that was done by the Town’s Community Preservation Plan Committee. They started exploring parcels identified in their Open Space Inventory, discussed them with Town Planner, Bonnie Franson, and narrowed the prime parcel choices from over 11,646 to 5, 472 acres, with 53 identified as especially desired parcels. The goal was to apply to the State for a Home Rule PDR plan under which farmers can be compensated with tax exemptions in return for not developing portions of that land. The PDR program can also be used toward Open Space purchases, the money being gleaned by a small transfer tax on real estate transfered , the resulting funds being collected in a special account to be used for these preservation efforts. The authorization for this home rule transfer tax fund was passed by the state legislature last year. It now sits on Governor Kathy Hochul’s desk awaiting her signature.
So now, the Blooming Grove Town Bord has decided that it is time to call back the Community Preservation Plann Committee, and have it take another look at the group of prime preservation properties, anticipating that the selections may be coming closer to fruition.
On Tuesday night the Blooming Grove Town Board reviewed the names of committee member selections (most having already participated in the first round). There is one more seat available, but as of now the Committee members will include Elinor Hart, Edward Gannon of the town’s Planning board, Sean Brady of the ZBA, and Perry Ragusa of the Community Preservation Committee.
The board members are in “forward thinking mode”, ready to follow up on this important work, before building projects snatch those especially environmentally valuable sites up, and we lose our open space views, hiking and farming lands forever.
This is an incredibly exciting time for the Town of Blooming Grove to pick up the gauntlet of selecting land to protect, both via Protection of Development Rights on Farmland, and Open Space selections. Any action, obviously, will rely on Governor Hochul finally signing the bill, which was put through last year’s legislative session nearly 11 months ago through efforts by Senator James Skoufis and Assemblyman Colin Schmitt. Committee members are very eager to restart their work.
Solar Joins The Town’s Environmental Plans
With a large expansion of the Orange & Rockland Substation on Round Hill Road that will soon be processing Megawatts from the McCarthy Solar grid nearby, Supervisor Rob Jeroloman said his team is taking a closer look at options to have additional solar project resources in the town. With the Orange & Rockand headquarters right down the road on Route 208, IF community solar acreage can be sited where it will be useful and helping to cut fossil fuel use that is believed to be a prime source of negative climate change.
IN ORDER TO DO THIS SOLAR GROWTH THE BEST AND RIGHT WAY, THE TOWN BOARD MEMBERS HAVE DECIDED THAT UTILITY PROJECTS SHOULD HAVE THEIR OWN ZONING CODE, AND NOT BE PART OF THE NNI ZONE (“Utility Code” NOT part of Non Nuisance Light Industrial)
The good news is that there is a whole new approach to solar in our area. by the engineers and professional businessmen involved. Solar developers AND the engineers at O&R are stepping into a new kind of “WOKE” in terms of the right way to so large scale solar, a way that best uses the associated land. In discussions with the O&R team earlier this month, the principals said that at the Round Hill site (which includes a new additional 10 acres), they are committed to doing full scale buffering landscaping, including several rows of mature buffering arborvitae along the road (which is a Scenic Byway, with a Scenic View, and adjacent to an important Biodiversity Corridor. Not only do they plan to do significant habitat restoration there especially for endangered species. They even want to set up birding stations/possibly with educational materials in this area that has high protective value including views of the Schunnemunk Ridge. As a neighboring homeowner, what a treat to hear that the lead professional’s wife is an artist and longtime Cornell Extension Agency member. These projects are beginning to sound like “A place for everything and everything in its place.”