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Malta moving to protect farmland

Agricultural landowners in the Town of Malta will soon receive mailings asking for their participation in a process aimed at protecting agricultural farmland and open space in the town and surrounding areas.

The meeting, billed as a public workshop on agricultural enhancement, is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 28, at 7 p.m., in the town's community center. A committee tasked with exploring ways to grow and retain agriculture in the town will be looking for input from local landowners and will listen to their concerns.

The committee, made up largely of members of the town's volunteer Open Space Committee, has been meeting for the past three months to research what sort of measures can be taken in Malta. Working with the committee has been Tracy Clothier of the LA Group, who announced the upcoming meeting at a Monday, Jan. 5, meeting of the Malta Town Board.

According to Clothier, there are a number of approaches for the town to consider. In nearby Clifton Park, conservation easements have been successful, which allow landowners to temporarily give up development rights on their land in exchange for lower property taxes. Such endeavors are often called Purchase of Development Rights programs.

The committee has also been examining how landowners can adequately address storm water management and environmental regulations, and is examining the town's zoning in respect to agricultural use.

There are many ways that smaller-type farms would thrive in Malta, and already do, but the zoning regulations are real obstacles, said Clothier. "Our intent is to make it as simple as possible to show people how to use these strategies on their property."

About one year ago, the town was one of 21 municipalities to receive a grant for the development of local farmland and agriculture protection plans. The town chipped in $8,000 of its own money on top of the $25,000 grant.

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