By Kassie Parisi
Clifton Park could be home to a new ShopRite store, depending on which way the town votes in an upcoming referendum on whether the Shenendehowa Central School District should sell 32 acres of undeveloped land to BBL Construction.
The issue of the land, which is located behind Shatekon Elementary School, has become a controversial topic since the school board, in December, voted 4-3 to sell the land to BBL for just over $2 million. Angered by what they saw as a lack of transparency from the school board regarding the decision, open space advocates were gathered more than 5,500 signatures in less than a month and forced a referendum, now slated for Tuesday, April 4.
The vote willallow the public to express whether or not it agrees with the decision to sell the land, though it has no legal weight to stop a sale.
In BBL’s bid for the land, the company offered $2,050,001 and agreed to donate between 17.5 and 19 acres of the parcel to the town of Clifton Park to be used as a park, while the remaining land would be developed into retail or office space. The town also made a bid for the land, making an offer of $1 million.
Marc Goldstein, director of real estate for BBL, noted the company has a working relationship with ShopRite that dates back to the 1980s. He said BBL is talking with ShopRite about the Clifton Park space, and the grocery chain has expressed interest in opening a store there, if BBL takes ownership of the property and the a construction agreement can be reached.
But that possibility, said Goldstein, is entirely contingent on the April 4 referendum.
“Until we get a positive vote, everything we want to accomplish on that land is moot,” he said. He also noted that, if BBL were to gain possession of the land, the firm would build a $550,000 roadway between Moe Road and Maxwell Road that would be donated to the town, to mitigate traffic concerns and ensure pedestrian safety.
ShopRite did not return multiple requests for comment.
As the referendum approaches, campaigns supporting the land sale and advocating for the district to retain ownership of the property have ramped up. Fliers supporting the sale that state, “Vote YES for a Park,” have been sighted around town, reportedly paid for by a group called Vote Yes for a Park LLC. The fliers suggest a vote approving the sale of the land will result in a new park for the town.
Goldstein said on Tuesday that, while he isn’t personally involved with the LLC, it’s possible other BBL employees are, though he couldn’t name anyone who might be.
According to Town Supervisor Phil Barrett, the town has not committed to accepting the property. He said the town would not take any action on the matter until after the referendum.
“At this point, we’re awaiting the results,” he said. “We’re always eager to talk about the property and the town playing a role in the future if the voters turn down the decision made by the school board to sell it.”
He also pointed out that, even if a park were considered for the space, the town would need willing, committed partners to help make that happen.
Green space advocacy group Friends of Clifton Park have criticized the “Vote YES” signs, echoing the fact that the town has not said it will accept the land for a park. Bob Rybak, a member of that group, emphasized that selling the land to BBL does not guarantee there will be a park on the space, while a no vote would at least provide the possibility of a park at some pointand would spur the school board to go back to the drawing board.
“A no vote stops the process,” Rybak said. He confirmed that, if the referendum yields a “no” vote, the group’s long-term goal would be to make the space into a park, and he pointed to Clifton Commons as an example of how a community space can enhance a town.