Santabarbara bill to stop farmland annexation project enters state Senate

MOHAWK — Efforts to stop the Farmland Annexation Project in the town continues as state Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara’s bill introduced in April that calls for a moratorium, has now been introduced in the state Senate.

Santabarbara, who serves on the state Assembly’s Agriculture Committee, introduced a bill earlier this year that calls for a moratorium on the annexation of farmland for industrial uses, targeting the regional business park project in the town of Mohawk. That legislation has made its way to the New York state Senate as state Sen. James Skoufis has now introduced the bill, according to a news release.

“This bill will allow time for further consideration of proposals like this in our state, especially in the rural areas of upstate New York where we have seen communities like the town of Mohawk robbed of some of the richest farmland in the Eastern United States,” Santabarbara said. “We are seeing increased interest in this legislation as more communities are concerned with losing more farmland and forest areas to industrial uses that can cause damage to the environment ant put natural resources at risk.”

The proposed business park involves annexation of 263 acres of land now in the town of Mohawk into the city of Johnstown. The park — which would get water and sewer services from Johnstown — would be built near the Johnstown Industrial Park off Route 30A, on the border of Fulton and Montgomery counties.

In a letter to Santabarbara, State Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard Ball weighed-in on the matter. The letter states, “I share your concern about the continued conversation of high-quality farmland to non-farm uses and appreciate your efforts concerning the possible annexation and potential conversion of prime farmland into a proposed industrial use in the town of Mohawk, Montgomery County Agricultural District No. 2.”

The Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos also weighed-in on the matter in a letter to Santabarbara.

The letter states that the town of Mohawk assumed lead agency status in 2016 for the review of the annexation application, and as part of the review process, DEC advised them of protected waters and wetlands on the site, along with other potential resources and permits that may be needed to be acquired during the process.

The letter states that removal of agricultural lands from production should be evaluated as part of the Environmental Impact Statement.

“The town conducted public scoping on October of 2016, and to our knowledge, a draft EIS was submitted but it was found deficient by the town and requires revision prior to public notice and comment,” the letter states. “While the annexation is not under the jurisdiction of DEC, if a project were proposed that would require permits from our department, DEC will review their application against applicable regulations before making a final determination.”

Community members have also shown their opposition to the project including local environmental advocates Citizens Against Local Landfills, town board members and town residents.

According to the news release, more than 1,500 have signed a petition opposing the annexation.

“We have witnessed three attempts to site large-scale waste management facilities in the lands of the Glen Industrial Park,” CALL stated in the release. “The latest attempt was coupled with cries that the land had not been used for its purpose as an Industrial Park so we had to take what we could get.”

By Josh Bovee

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