Five Rivers project still in gridlock

"It's gone nowhere, and it's such an unbelievable gift," Mariconti said. "I think the public would be flabbergasted to learn about this. All the neighbors that border this property just can't believe it."

In Richards' proposal, a 25-acre portion of the land in the subdivision would be sold to the Open Space Institute for $60,000, according to Terresa Bakner, who represents Richards. If added to the preserve, that land would provide Five Rivers access from within the Town of Bethlehem. Currently, the preserve can only be reached through the town of New Scotland.

"It's taken us a while to get here and there are no subdivisions that we are aware of on the history of this property," Bakner told the board in April. "The land could have been divided into dozens of lots if they wanted to develop it. While the wetlands on the site are in several locations, it in no way inhibits the development."

The development plans call for transferring the donated acreage to the Open Space Institute and eventually the Delmar Wildlife Conservation, which is owned by the state.

Planning Board Chairman Parker Mathusa asked for a 20-foot easement on both sides of a potential access point near one of the proposed lots.

"I want 20 feet on both sides," Mathusa told Bakner at a Sept. 16 planning board meeting. "I don't mean to be heavy on this, but I want to be sure."

Mathusa said at the meeting that there was some confusion over the donated land, and he was looking for adequate access to the property.

"I, maybe erroneously, believed we had another access because it's important to get to that park," Mathusa said at that meeting, calling the property "landlocked."

At the Oct. 7 planning board meeting, the topic once again came up. The ensuing stalemate has caused frustration for all parties involved, including town planners and Richards, who now lives in California, to the point where one neighbor offered to buy a piece of the land from Richards and deed it over to the town.

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