Bethlehem wants to keep its open spaces open or at least have the tools to make it easier for local landowners who do.
On Wednesday, Feb. 13, the town board appointed the Citizen's Advisory Committee on Conservation (CACC) as an advisory committee to the Department of Economic Development to develop a townwide open space plan.
During the town board meeting, a $25,000 contract was authorized with Behan Planning Associates of Saratoga Springs to assist town staff and CACC members in creating the planning initiative.
Supervisor Jack Cunningham said it is necessary to help people combat the economic pressures of development.
It's a process for landowners to have the tools in place to help them preserve space," Cunningham said. "It doesn't work in all cases. We are simply trying to maintain some aesthetics in town."
Cunningham said that the 11 CACC members consist of a "cross section" of residents, who would help develop the plan with the town's economic development department.
"They're going to use the CACC as a kind of sounding board to help them develop the plan," said Cunningham.
One woman spoke at the town board meeting before the open space initiatives were voted on and said more farmers and landowners should be on the committee and involved in the process.
"We really need to show support for our farmers," she told the board.
Cunningham responded in a later interview, saying, "We've got a good cross section there. I don't necessarily see it that way."
George Leveille, director of the Department of Economic Development, said CACC members represented "geographic diversity" around town. Its members include residents involved in agriculture as well as large landowners, Leveille said.
Leveille said the purpose of the advisory board would be to help map out an open space plan, which the town is creating itself. The Behan group will be strictly used in an advisory capacity, he said.