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Assemblyman Calls For Moratorium On Farmland Annexation

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara
Lucas Willard
Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara (file photo)

An upstate New York Assemblyman is joining with a state Senator on a proposal that would place a moratorium on the annexation of farmland for industrial use.

State Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, a Democrat of New York’s 111th District, says the agricultural resources of Montgomery County are at risk.

“Taking rich farmland in Montgomery County and giving it away for industrial use is just bad decision-making, plain and simple,” said Santabarbara.

Santabarbara, a member of the Assembly’s Agriculture Committee is partnering with Senator James Skoufis, a Democrat of Woodbury in the Hudson Valley, on a bill that would place a moratorium on the annexation of farmland for industrial use. Here’s Skoufis…

“This provides municipalities with a tool to basically hit a pause button if there’s an annexation provision that is being thrust upon them,” said Skoufis.

Santabarbara cites past failed projects in the county: a proposed landfill at the Glen Canal view Industrial Park in 1998, and more recently a proposed biosolids processing facility in the Town of Glen.

Now, the Assemblyman says he’s gathered 1,500 petition signatures opposing the annexation of more than 260 acres from the Town of Mohawk in Montgomery County to neighboring Fulton County, for the purpose of establishing a business park.

The annexation proposal includes a revenue sharing agreement with Montgomery County and Fulton County. A primary purpose of the annexation would be to extend infrastructure from neighboring Johnstown in Fulton County to the site.

But a state environmental review of the proposal remains incomplete and some local officials are joining grassroots efforts to oppose the move.

Mohawk Town Supervisor Ed Bishop says it’s an issue of local control.

“If it got annexed, then the town of Mohawk would have no control,” said Bishop.

Montgomery County has seen other economic development projects pop up in recent years, including the potential redevelopment of the former Beech-Nut baby food factory site in Canajoharie, and retail distribution centers in along Route 5S.  

In his state of the county address in April, Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort, a Republican, said the county should not focus on the Mohawk site.

“Pushing that forward and pursuing that project is not something the county needs to do. And especially given the lack of community support and the lack of support from electeds, I think, you know what, let’s focus our energies elsewhere and we’ll take it from there,” said Ossenfort.

Despite Ossenfort’s comments, Santabarbara is asking the county legislature and county executive for action.

“Pass a resolution! Stand with us. Pass a resolution in opposition to this project. Reject this proposal. Because this proposal is something the residents don’t want, but it’s also something that endangers natural resources and also quality of life,” said Santabarbara.

Andrew Santillo, an Economic Development Assistant for Montgomery County, commented on Santabarbara’s proposed moratorium Friday. 

In an email to WAMC, he said, “The county’s stance is trying to balance our rural character with a need for economic development initiatives. Without seeing the proposed legislation, it would be hard to for us to offer any support. However, these are private property owners that requested the annexation, which is well within their rights to do.”

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