BETHLEHEM, N.Y. (NEWS10) — This week, Bethlehem residents were able to vote on Proposition 2, which would allow the town to purchase about 307 acres of farmland. The election resulted in 61% of residents voting yes.
Bethlehem Town Supervisor David VanLuven said that the town has been working to purchase the land for the last four years to help preserve green space and prevent more subdivisions from being built.
“I see this referendum as a great opportunity for our community to engage in the discussion and why protecting open space is important,” he said. “And 61% of residents show that we overwhelmingly care and are willing to step up and pay for it.”
Right now, the land is owned by a private person willing to sell the property for $3 million. But local farmers and organizations like the Albany County Farmers Bureau are against the purchase. Ed Kleinke is on the Board of Directors for the organization.
“Albany County Farmers Bureau and myself believe that farmers are the best keepers of the land. And it should remain in private hands,” he said.
But the Town Supervisor wants everyone to know that preservation is the focus.
“Our vision is to develop farming …we are a municipality- we’re not interested in getting into the farming business,” VanLuven said. “And so..we’re looking to move forward with people who understand it.”
But the Bureau hopes that farmers can still be included in future conversations.
“I think farm owners should be open to working with the town and trying to achieve what’s best for the farm community,” he said. “And provide produce and products for the residents of the town.”
Now that voters have approved the purchase, the town will finalize it and start developing its proposed community programs.