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Bethlehem presents agricultural and farmland protection plan

In order to maintain its current level of local agriculture, the Town of Bethlehem has drafted an agricultural and farmland protection plan.

Town officials say they now want to hear what residents think about the proposal.

On Wednesday, Aug. 5, the plan will be presented at 7 p.m. at Bethlehem Town Hall, 445 Delaware Ave., Delmar.

Senior Planner Rob Leslie said the public hearing on the draft would bring the town one step closer to adopting a farmland protection plan. He said the goal is to find complementary land uses for existing farmers in Bethlehem.

After this meeting, we have an advisory committee scheduled for Aug. 17, and we'll bring the comments back to the committee from this meeting, Leslie said.

The Agricultural and Farmland Study Committee is made up of 10 people involved with farming or agricultural products and others with town interests, according to Leslie. The members include Lynn Dente, Nancy Neff, Tom Gallagher, Chuck Preska, Paul Kleinke, Tim Stanton, Planning Board Chairman George Leveille, Bob Verstandig Jr., Stuart Lyman and Giles Wagoner.

In February of 2008, Bethlehem was awarded a grant from the state's Department of Agriculture and Markets to create an agricultural and farmland protection plan in order to work with those in the agricultural industry. Leslie said the plan is also intended to establish varying strategies to enhance and manage the viability of agriculture and farmland areas.

The draft being presented defines land "protection" as the "preservation, conservation, management and improvement of lands which are part of viable farming operations, for the purpose of encouraging such lands to remain in agricultural production."

The presentation includes a variety of statistics and information from 2007-08 that was gathered from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Albany County, Albany County Farm Service Agency, Town of Bethlehem Assessor's Office, and the New York State Office of Real Property Service.

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