Fulton County buys $520K lake front property for museum

A museum dedicated to the history of the  Great Sacandaga Lake, pictured here from the Mayfield shore in 2020, has been approved by the Fulton County Board of Supervisors. The museum will be located in the town of Northhampton.

The Fulton County Board of Supervisors last week voted to approve creating “budget accounts” for the purchase of 33 acres of property in the town of Northampton from Richard and Robert Smith for $520,000 for the purpose of citing the “Great Sacandaga Lake History Museum.”

The money for the purchase comes from the $10.4 million in federal funding Fulton County received from the $1.9 trillion U.S. American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, passed by Congress and signed by President Biden in March.

Fulton County Administrator Jon Stead said the 33-acre site fit all three criteria the county was looking for in a location to put the museum: It’s accessible from Route 30, positioned just south of the Northville Bridge, overlooks the Great Sacandaga Lake and is in close proximity to a walkable downtown.

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“Obtaining a parcel of this size overlooking the lake is ideal and it will strengthen our region’s connection to the popularity of Adirondacks tourism,” Stead said.

The supervisors in August voted 16-1 to endorse the “Destination: Fulton County” strategic plan for how to spend the federal funds, which included $1.2 million toward construction of a new state-of-the-art museum and recreational facility to showcase the history of the modern engineering that created the Great Sacandaga reservoir. The plan endorsed by the board in August included $600,000 allocated for property acquisition, engineering and design and $600,000 toward the construction of the museum.

Stead said the supervisors at their September meeting approved giving County Attorney Jason Brott the authority to close negotiations with the Smith family for the final purchase of the land. Stead said no real estate brokers or agents were involved with this sale.

“This is property that I think had been rumored to be on the market a few years ago, something that the county was aware of — that there had been commercial interest in it,” Stead said. “I’m not from Northville, but I believe for a couple of years there was interest from Dollar General purchasing a section of this, so the county and local people were aware of it being there. We had done a survey around the county that might be in the vicinity of the lake, or overlooking the lake, and this met the three three criteria we were looking for.”

The 33 acre parcel includes 10 acres of flat commercially-developable land for museum placement and 20 acres of forest that may be used for an additional outdoor recreational venue.

“[That] creates the opportunity for a short hiking trail and ‘Sacandaga Viewpoint’ above the museum,” Stead wrote in the news release. “The Destination Fulton County plan envisions many connections, and this is the start of a grand one.”

Stead said there is no Great Sacandaga Lake front property permitted to the parcel from the Hudson River Black River Regulating District [HRBRRD], which owns and regulates all of the lake front beach property around the lake/reservoir.

“There is some [lake front] property nearby that is un-permitted by [HRBRRD], so we’re going to look into whether, you know, down-the-road, we could do some kind of children’s programming, because a museum has a lot of neat things it can do,” Stead said. “We do believe we will be able to get access to the water, but [the property] is not adjacent to the water’s edge. We haven’t completely explored it yet. There are also some neighborhood marinas in the area, so those are all things to be explored. We haven’t made any determinations about exploring a permit on the lake yet. I think it might be nice, because there is at least one high school that has a fishing or a lake club where they learn about the aquatics of the lake from an educational standpoint, Broadalbin-Perth [being one such district], so these are things I think would be complementary to any museum related to the Great Sacandaga Lake.”

The parcel also included $4,325 worth of unpaid Northville Central School District 2021-22 school taxes, which the county has agreed to pay, and another $80,000 worth of costs, including demolition of dilapidated buildings on the property, the clearing of debris, rough grading work and the erection of signage to secure the site for the winter season. Both of those costs were paid for in the “budget accounts” created by the resolution passed by the board last Tuesday.
Stead said the property was never in foreclosure for the owners not paying the taxes; the county simply agreed to pick up the taxes as part of the sale. He said the Smith family has owned the parcel for many decades, but no one was living there in the years leading up to the sale.

Northampton Supervisor James Groff, who also chairs the county’s Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment, said he supports the project.

“The museum is a great idea and this spot is a great location for it. It’s near restaurants and retail stores, but also sits right next to the Northville-Lake Placid Trail,” Groff said.

Stead said the next steps in the process of building the museum will include applying for a state-charter for the museum and forming an advisory board, all of which will likely occur in the spring of 2022.

“I believe those are required for this,” Stead said of the charter application and advisory board. He said the county also hopes to get the planned hiking trail set up, possibly for programming use, sometime in 2022.

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By Jason Subik

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