County reviews agricultural district

FONDA — The Montgomery County Legislature approved the 8-year review of the county’s Agriculture District No. 2 on Tuesday, which included the removal of 260 acres from the town of Mohawk and the addition of about 100 acres in the town of Amsterdam.

Before the legislature voted on the measure, during the public comment period of the meeting, Palatine councilman Christopher Novak, himself a farmer, talked about the importance of agriculture in Montgomery County.

“In our town we have seen there is lots of business development in other areas, but the main thrust is in agriculture and we applaud the effort of the county to make sure that as many [property owners] as possible were able to be retained in the agriculture district,” said Novak, adding local farmers had been working on several projects to strengthen the agricultural community, such as the formation of a food hub, some year-round farmers markets and agro-tourism. “Our farmers have a huge problem getting their product out to market because of logistical issues, so since we’re talking about the agriculture district, I just wanted you to know how important it is to us,” he said.

New York state law requires designated agriculture districts to be reviewed every eight years. About two thirds of all of the land in Montgomery County, 176,000 acres total, is located in one of its three agriculture districts. Agriculture District 2 includes about 48,000 acres of land in the towns of St. Johnsville, Palatine, Mohawk and the town of Amsterdam.

State designated agriculture districts enable qualified agricultural land within the district to apply for reduced property tax assessments and protections from zoning against farming, among other benefits.

District 1 Legislator Martin Kelly said contrary to what some people believe, having land in an agriculture district does not restrict its commercial or residential development, it just provides incentives to maintaining agriculture. He said the land in Mohawk needed to come out of the agriculture district because the land owners have applied to be annexed into the city of Johnstown in Fulton County for the purpose of being developed as a proposed regional business park.

“It wouldn’t make sense to keep those parcels in, if they’re no longer going to be a part of Montgomery County,” Kelly said. “The owner of the land in the town of Amsterdam wrote a letter requesting to be added. This is land that is used for pasture land or crop land.”

Montgomery County’s Agriculture District 3, which includes the towns of Root, Charleston, Glen and Florida will be up for its 8-year review in 2019.

By Patricia Older

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