Saratoga Spring's Open Space Committee looks at existing bond and new ordinances

In its first meeting of 2008, Saratoga Spring's Open Space Advisory Committee shifted focus in its efforts to bolster protection of key open spaces in the city.

The committee met Wednesday, Jan. 30, with Saratoga Associates planner Jackie Hakes.

The committee outlined a strategy to continue preserving open spaces especially as existing land trusts, organizations and comprehensive plans, once charged with the task, expire. The goal is to focus only on key properties that best serve open space management in the city using a two-pronged approach: One, to put the city's remaining $1.5 million of a 2001 $5 million bond for open space conservation to good use, and two, to strengthen open space protections through city ordinances.

We really have the makings as far as critical mass in creating open space. We don't want to buy land that is so constrained that it can't be developed, said Lew Benton, administrator of Parks, Open Land and Historic Preservation.

Benton took the civil service job after the November elections. As such, he works hand in hand with the advisory committee, which reports periodically to city planners and council members.

The committee is in the middle of pulling together a master open space conservation plan that will work in conjunction with ongoing initiatives, such as recreational sites and multi-modal trails in the city, as well as continuing development.

"We are really setting a path, setting a trend with regards to this," said Hakes, speaking of the committee's goal to develop an open space master plan.

Many communities already have similar comprehensive plans in place, she said. But as far as open space preservation goes, they are mere mentions and goals rather than planning strategies, Hakes said.

To start 2008, the committee plans to begin listing potential conservation sites within the city, including some already identified in existing plans.

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