For the first time in Ballston Town History, a Farmland Protection Plan is being drafted. Agricultural districts have been designated in the past, but a protection plan would make the town eligible for state, federal or county funding if it becomes available and would make state funded purchase of development rights (PDR) an option for farmers, said Joan Pott, chairman of the Farmland Protection Plan committee.
In 2009, the town applied for a grant from the state to hire a consultant to help it navigate the farmland protection plan process. With the state's current financial crisis, those funds are no longer available but the plan is still a top priority for the town board, said Supervisor Patti Southworth, so that's why this committee was formed.
It's very important to this community to formulate a plan because we have put value on agriculture, we're a right to farm community and we feel this is another step to coincide with that, said Southworth. "We know if we have a plan in place we rank higher on the priority list of funds that become available so it helps the farmers and large landowners by simply having a plan in place."
The committee held a meeting open to the public on Thursday, Jan. 20, to offer information and gather opinions and insight from farmers. Pott said about 50 residents showed up and she's received a slew of phone calls and emails with positive reactions to the proposed plan.
"We want to formulate a plan that hopefully can address all the needs or at least the majority of the needs in the town," said Pott.
The trick to drafting a good plan, said Pott, will be to find a way to balance private property owners' rights and the town residents' desire to see Ballston retain its rural and agricultural atmosphere, while at the same time recognizing where municipalities purchase development rights so farmers have cash to fund their farming efforts.