School board meets with town to discuss land deal

Representatives from the Shenendehowa Board of Education met with the representatives from the Town of Clifton Park last week to discuss the transfer of 34 acres of undeveloped land.

KASSIE PARISI/GAZETTE REPORTERRepresentatives from the Shenendehowa Board of Education met with the representatives from the Town of Clifton Park last week to discuss the transfer of 34 acres of undeveloped land. KASSIE PARISI/GAZETTE REPORTER

By Kassie Parisi

Gazette Reporter

CLIFTON PARK — The Shenendehowa Central School District board of education recently met with town officials about the possible sale of 32 acres of undeveloped district-owned land.

The meeting happened May 30, with district Superintendent Oliver Robinson, board President Bob Pressly, and board members Bill Casey and Todd Gilbert sitting down with Clifton Park Town Supervisor Phil Barrett, as well as Town Board member Amy Standaert, Planning Department Director John Scavo, and Town Attorney Tom McCarthy. It was the first meeting between the two entities to discuss the parcel.

In an April referendum, town residents overwhelmingly rejected the district’s proposal to sell the land to BBL Construction for about $2 million. The vote came after months of harsh campaign rhetoric from both sides of the issue, with many residents expressing a desire for the land to go to the town, and others insisting it should be sold to BBL, which had plans to build a ShopRite on the parcel.

In response to constituents who felt the school’s initial negotiations for the land’s sale were shrouded in secrecy, the school board is striving for more transparency, designating a few members to be on a committee that will talk with the town, then report back to both the other board members and the public.

The town, Pressly said, would consider a price in the $1.6 million range, with a $1 million cash outlay and the remainder coming from non-cash sources, like shared field maintenance. The board noted that the $1 million offer was the same one the town had made in its October bid for the land, and that Barrett brought copies of the school district’s request for proposals to the meeting.

At Tuesday night’s school board meeting, Pressly said even though it’s early in the process, perspectives were hashed out with the town.

“People want to hear this, and they want to get a sense of where it’s going, and we feel obligated to give it to them,” he said.

Gilbert and Casey both said they left the meeting feeling optimistic.

“My overall feeling is that this meeting will lead to a more productive next meeting,” Gilbert said.

Casey called the conversation friendly and noted that the town and the school district are ultimately serving the same constituents.

“What do we need? What do they need, and how do we find a middle ground?” he said.

Reached on Tuesday night by phone, Barrett was not as optimistic in his reflections on the meeting. The school district contingent was not authorized to negotiate a deal for the land, and Barrett said it is imperative that someone be granted negotiation powers in order to move forward.

“If they don’t give anyone the power to negotiate on behalf of the school, we can meet over and over again, but I don’t see how we can move this process forward,” he said. “Until that happens, we won’t know where we are.”

Board members did acknowledge that, as the process goes forward, they will have to buckle down and select a negotiator.

The town will meet again with the board committee on Thursday, June 22.