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Five Rivers project still in gridlock

A 35-acre development deal that could ultimately result in nearly 25 acres of land donated to Five Rivers and bring the state preserve into the Town of Bethlehem is still stuck in the planning phase.

Property owner Carol Richards has said she has become increasingly frustrated with the lengthy process of completing the deal and is rumored to be considering pulling the proposal all together and selling the prime piece of property to a developer if it doesn't move forward.

The development snag is hung up on a 20-foot strip of land from Fisher Boulevard to the donated land which the town is requesting for an access road, but Richards has proposed having an access from New Scotland Road, where a paper road already exists.

Neighbors surrounding the property say they want Five Rivers to get the donated land and keep the current development proposal of seven units, as opposed to a new development coming in that could bring dozens of new homes to the site.

Town officials said they hope an agreement can be reached and the project can eventually move forward.

Michael Morelli, the town's assistant director of economic development and planning, said the Fisher Road access is consistent with the town's comprehensive plan in that it would connect recreational land by means of pedestrian pathways. He added that the New Scotland Road access would have to use a paper road, which Morelli said, would be disruptive to neighbors.

Essentially you're walking down someone's driveway, Morelli said.

"The goal of the comprehensive plan is to have a network of trails and pathways when appropriate. We're looking at the big picture here," Morelli said. "We were hoping we could take a common sense approach to this to allow for the proposal to go forward."

However, neighbor John Mariconti said the town is being stubborn over access, and he is worried Richards will sell the parcel if an agreement can't be reached.

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