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Residents Approve Clifton Park Land Purchase

Lucas Willard

Voters in Southern Saratoga County have approved a land sale between a local school district and the Town of Clifton Park.

In April, voters in the large Shenendehowa School District soundly rejected the sale of 34 acres of land within the town of Clifton Park from the district to a local developer.

The developer had planned to use about half of the property to build a supermarket and access road, with the other half donated to the town to build a park.

On Tuesday, residents once again voted on the property’s future. This time, it was to approve the sale of the property to the Town of Clifton Park.

In September, local leaders outlined their revised plan, which would take 37 acres on two parcels of land and preserve half for open space and develop a park on the other half. A buffer zone would separate the new town  property from the neighboring school district property.

Yes votes carried the day, 2,753 to 535.

Clifton Park Supervisor Phil Barrett said with the $1.1 million sale approved, the town will now look toward the future of the property.

“There’s obviously a tremendous amount of interest in the future of this parcel. We’ve seen that in the turnout of the two referendums,” said Barrett. “At this point the town and the school have committed to work together in the future.”

Beginning early next year, the town will begin collecting input from residents. Many have expressed support for keeping an area wooded and improving trails. Situated between school athletic fields and a busy shopping district, the acreage is one of the last undeveloped areas in Clifton Park’s bustling town center.

“In the first quarter of 2018 the town board will initiative a comprehensive public planning process to discuss the future of the parcel,” said Barrett.

The Group Friends of Clifton Park Open Space applauded the results of Tuesday’s vote, saying on Facebook:

“Thank you to everyone who worked on this campaign and to everyone who came out to vote and supported keeping this beautiful property in the public domain.”

Shenendehowa School District Superintendent Dr. Oliver Robinson said what happens to the land is up to the town.

“The only stipulation in the contract is that land be used for municipal purposes, non-commercial purposes,” said Robinson.

The land sale fits into an initiative by the school board to address its growing student population within the neighboring town of Halfmoon. The proceeds will go toward future efforts to purchase land for new facilities.

Dr. Robinson said the district will begin a search for viable property in the spring.

“We like the notion of a campus concept and so if we can create a mini-campus, we’d have multiple facilities in one area, that’s perfect because then we maximize the economies of scope and scale,” said Robinson.

The land sale was not the only item voted on Tuesday.

Voters also approved a $22 million capital project. Dr. Robinson said the project will improve education, including upgrades to high school science classrooms and cafeteria space. And it will improve traffic flow on the Shenendehowa campus.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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