MILTON — The town of Milton and the village of Ballston Spa continue to discuss an agreement for Milton to purchase the Woods Hollow Nature Preserve from the Village.
The nature preserve is located in the town of Milton but is currently owned by the village of Ballston Spa. Milton Town Supervisor Scott Ostrander said the town has been paying for maintenance of the preserve for “probably the last 30 years,” at a cost of roughly $8,000 to $10,000 per year.
A memorandum of agreement was signed between the municipalities on March 17. The agreement is not a formal contract nor legally binding but is a mutual understanding between the two parties to work toward the listed terms.
The memorandum states the sale price would be $360,000, and that the preserve would receive a conservation easement designating it as ‘forever wild,’ with minor exceptions.
Exceptions would be for maintenance and emergency response vehicles, for forest management work, and construction of minor unenclosed structures and benches, Ballston Spa Mayor Frank Rossi, Jr. said in a Facebook post.
The deal would also ensure that the Village of Ballston Spa does not face any liability for the cancellation of its contract with the Saratoga Land Management Corporation (LUMAC), who the Village had hired to conduct tree-cutting on dead or dying trees in the preserve. Rossi said that no trees in the preserve were taken down under the contract.
Milton has raised funds for the purchase through “the sale of land to the Community Emergency Corps, monies paid in lieu of parklands by our development committee, and through the Saratoga County Open Space Preservation Grant Program,” according to a statement released on the town’s Facebook page.
As part of the agreement, Milton would establish water districts within four to six months of the sale, and handle snow removal, treatment, and brush pickup in the Colonial Hills neighborhood for the next five years. The town would also recognize the need to increase its annual support for the Ballston Spa Public Library and the Ballston Spa Village Pool, according to the memorandum.
The Town of Milton would plan to make some improvements to the preserve, but Ostrander said they are mainly looking at “preserving it the way it is.”
“We basically want to keep it forever wild, like it looks now,” Ostrander told Saratoga Today on March 22.
He said the town would look to pave the main parking lot off Northline Road and pull-in entrances off Rowland Street, add more benches throughout the preserve, and clean up trails and surrounding areas.
The Town of Milton voted to approve the terms of the memorandum at their Town Board meeting on March 22.
Ballston Spa held a Board of Trustees meeting on March 27, where the Board voted against placing Woods Hollow into the village surplus. Some trustees at the meeting raised concerns over proper publicization of the agreement, as well as rights to water in the preserve.
The memorandum states, “The Village retains any and all water and mineral rights but neither party can mine.” Rossi said that while some Village trustees spoke of concerns over potentially signing away future water rights in the preserve, he felt it was “resolved” based on feedback from the audience at Monday’s meeting.
Declaring surplus is a needed step to move forward in the sale process, Rossi said.
“That was disappointing that we weren’t able to get there, but we’ll see where it goes,” said Rossi.
Ostrander also said it was “disappointing” that the Village was unable to move forward.
“At this point, the attorneys are trying to work out the details,” Ostrander said on Wednesday. “Like I said, we signed the memorandum. The Town of Milton’s all set on their end.”
The Ballston Spa Village Board of Trustees will hold a special meeting on April 6 to discuss sidewalk and ethics codes, Rossi said. The next Board of Trustees regular meeting will be 7 p.m. on April 10. Rossi said on Wednesday he was unsure of which meeting the topic will be brought up again, saying the Village has to advertise the terms of the agreement.
“I’m just not sure what the timing will be on that,” said Rossi.