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Report: Bethlehem open space preservation will take cooperation

The report brings another issue to light: how much the town will be willing to spend in pursuit of open space initiatives such as purchase of development rights or conservation easement programs, which essentially pay landowners to leave open space undeveloped.

The Town Board ultimately holds the decision of what elements of the report the town will pursue. Liebschutz said she hopes the board will direct the CACC to develop land feature criteria that can be used to assess the open space value of land and help the town make decisions when faced with a purchase opportunity.

"I regard that as an essential part of an open space plan. So I hope we move forward on that piece quickly," she said.

Liebschutz also noted that with a proper open space plan in place, it would be much easier to seek out funding opportunities. Members of the Town Board said they would like to know more about how open space initiatives could be funded through government programs or groups like the Mohawk-Hudson Land Conservancy or the Open Space Institute.

"I definitely would like to see more research into not only those existing entities we are working with, but perhaps there are others out there," said Councilman Kyle Kotary.

The report's recommendations are broken into short, medium and long-term initiatives. They include making updates to the town code, forming a pathways committee (the PaTHS 4 Bethlehem Committee was formed in March) and planting trees along the right of way in certain areas.

"Trees are recognized as an opens space resource in the town. It at least gives a perception of open space in the developed areas of the town," said Leslie.

The town retained the services of Behan Planning and Design of Saratoga Springs at a cost of approximately $25,000, said Leslie.

The CACC meets on the second Monday of the month, and meetings are open to the public. The entire Recommendations on Open Space Needs and Opportunities report can be viewed on the town's Web site: www.townofbethlehem.org.

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