Shen school board creates panel to deal with land issue

The Shenendehowa Board of Education approved the creation of a "working committee" that will serve as a liaison to the Town of Clifton Park in upcoming discussions over the 32-acres of district owned land.

KASSIE PARISI/GAZETTE REPORTERThe Shenendehowa Board of Education approved the creation of a "working committee" that will serve as a liaison to the Town of Clifton Park in upcoming discussions over the 32-acres of district owned land. KASSIE PARISI/GAZETTE REPORTER

By Kassie Parisi

Gazette Reporter

CLIFTON PARK — The Shenendehowa Board of Education has created a committee that will serve as a liaison to the town of Clifton Park regarding the possible sale of 32 acres of undeveloped land owned by the district.

In March, school district voters rejected a referendum to sell the land to a developer.

At its Tuesday night meeting, the board discussed the composition of the committee and the parameters under which it will function. Board members Bill Casey and Todd Gilbert will serve on the committee, along with board president Bob Pressly. District officials, including superintendent Oliver Robinson, will serve as advisers.

Pressly explained that the committee will not be authorized to negotiate a deal for the land. Rather, said Pressly, it will represent the board and make clear to town representatives the board’s perspective on the land. It will also define what exactly the board expects from any possible deal. As of now, the town has not made a formal proposal regarding the land to the board.

Though the board held off on setting an asking price for the parcel at  Tuesday’s meeting, a consensus was reached that a monetary payment would be accepted for the 32 acres, along with possible tangible concessions to increase the deal’s value, such as shared use of fields.

While Robinson acknowledged the school board doesn’t have control over when, or if, the town would turn the land into a park, he noted that any agreements reached would include assurances that, should the town turn the land into a park, the district would be guaranteed the right to use its fields or facilities.

Casey said the value-added concession aspect of the agreement could prove crucial, as it would allow long-term use of the land by many different parties.

Robinson also said he wanted to avoid talking specifics about price during Tuesday’s meeting. He assured the board a discussion of price would come, but that they have to first define their own expectations to the town.

Gilbert agreed, saying the committee might come back to the board pleasantly surprised upon speaking to the town, but they need to actually have a discussion first.

Robinson said he will reach out to Town Supervisor Phil Barrett to summarize Tuesday night’s discussion and find out who from the town will be meeting with committee representatives.

In an emailed statement, Clifton Park Town Supervisor Phil Barrett said that the town continues to be ready to engage with the district.

“The Town Board is still waiting for the school board to present dates for a meeting to discuss the land per our latest correspondence of April 27,” said Barrett.  “It is important that we are able to meet with representatives that are authorized to negotiate on behalf of the school district.  Based on press accounts, the committee appointed by the school board is for “informational purposes” only.  We  have two Town Board Members ready to meet to once again carry the message of our unified Town Board and negotiate details, based on the vision of our entire Town Board.  A great deal of time has passed since our initial discussions with school board representatives more than a year ago. We do not need a “meet and greet” meeting.  We know each other.”

Speaking during the public comment section of the meeting, board of education candidate Alexandra Blais said she was glad to learn the board would create the committee, and she hopes it will get to work immediately. She added that the committee should report back to the board each meeting until a resolution is reached, and that such actions could go a long way toward reestablishing residents’ trust in the board.

“Time really is of the essence,” she said.