Times Union Tuesday, January 21, 2020

NEW SCOTLAND – The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy needs approximately $500,000 to meet the $1.2 million purchase price for a historic farm as part of an effort to preserve one of the town’s last large open spaces.
The conservancy received a $400,000 state grant through the Regional Economic Development Council process in December to help fund the former Bender Melon Farm, but under its agreement with the land’s owners, the group must close on the purchase by the end of May, Land Conservancy Executive Director Mark King said.
“We’re better than halfway to our goal and we’ve got a couple strategies in mind to finish it off so we’re very optimistic at this point,” he said.
The group’s vision for the land is meant to work in conjunction with the town’s vision for the area, including the Heldeberg-Hudson rail trail and especially the historic Hilton Barn site, which the conservancy helped preserve several years ago, King said.
“The big picture on this is there’s no end to the possibilities for this stretch of the trail and for the whole use of the rail trial,” he said. “The whole thing is a quality of life element for the area.
The town also received a $411,000 grant in December to support the Hilton Barn project, which could include restrooms, an amphitheater, skating rink and further restoration of the barnhe 198-acre plot, near the corner of routes 85 and 85A, was the site of the former Bender Melon Farm, which became nationally known for its produce, and the site of a contentious development debate over a decade ago when a developer wanted to build a 1.5 million-square-foot mall, anchored by a Target or Walmart..

The land is owned by 306 Maple Road LLC which includes James Murphy of Menands; Rebecca Freeman; Thomas Mottolese, a Menands dentist who died in 2015 and whose daughter, Maura, is now involved in the project; and Richard Esmay, a resident of Diamond Point on Lake George who died in 2016, according to Times Union archives. An attorney previously listed as representing the group could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
The 200-acre plot of land is listed for sale at $4 million. It has an assessed value of around $800,000. The conservancy was able to negotiate an option to purchase the land last year, King said.
In May 2018, the town adopted new hamlet zoning rules for the area, including the Bender farm, that aim to gradually transform 455 acres of once commercially zoned land into low-rise residences, sidewalks, small shops and park space, according to Times Union archives.
King and New Scotland Town Supervisor Doug LaGrange described a rough idea of what could become of the former farm, including an open space next to the Hilton Barn, some commercial development near the intersection of routes 85 and 85A, and selling part of the land for permanent agricultural use.
LaGrange said if the conservancy is successful, the purchase would be a way for the town to capitalize on that section of the rail trail while adding some commercial tax base.
“If we can split the difference and get some solid service-oriented commercial along with preserving the open space, it’s a win-win in my opinion,” he said. “And pretty much what we were trying to do with our zoning.”