Bringing the Five Rivers State Preserve into the town of Bethlehem and connecting to it with a pedestrian access is the goal that was discussed at the town's Tuesday, Oct. 7, Planning Board meeting.
However, a 20-foot strip of land is all that is holding up the deal.
A small eight-lot subdivision near Five Rivers has yet to get planning board approval because of concerns of having landlocked property donated to the town.
Carol Richards has proposed dividing her property off Fisher Boulevard into seven lots, which developers say would be fairly small so as to keep the density of homes on the property low.
A portion of the land would be sold to the Open Space Institute for $60,000, according to Terresa Bakner, who represented Richards at the meeting. 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 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 24.63 acres from Richards' property to the Open Space Institute and eventually to 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; that's 40 feet," Mathusa told Bakner. "I don't mean to be heavy on this, but I want to be sure."