Still no deal on Shen land issue

A sign on Moe Rd. near the Shenendehowa campus for the special land vote on April 4, 2017.

MARC SCHULTZ/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHERA sign on Moe Rd. near the Shenendehowa campus for the special land vote on April 4, 2017. MARC SCHULTZ/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

By Kassie Parisi

Gazette Reporter

CLIFTON PARK — Town officials met again Monday with representatives from the Shenendehowa Board of Education to discuss the possible sale of 34 acres of undeveloped land from the district to the town, but no deal was reached.

The meeting, the third of its kind, was a continuation of negotiation efforts between the two entities over the forested land that the district is considering selling to the town.

“Town and school board representatives met today to further discuss the 34 acres, deemed surplus by the board of education,” Clifton Park town Supervisor Phil Barrett said in an emailed statement on Monday. “During the meeting we discussed many of the same topics of conversation from earlier meetings, including the town’s idea from 2016, regarding a partnership for sports playing fields.”

Barrett went on to explain that the fields would be on school property adjacent to the 34 acres.

“Collaborative efforts between the town and school that benefit the community are an integral part of this conversation. Progress was made today and I expect we will be talking again in the near future,” the statement further read.

Officials from the town attending the meeting, along with Barrett, were Councilwoman Amy Standaert, Town Attorney Tom McCarthy and Planning Director John Scavo. Present from the Board of Education were new board President Bill Casey, board member Bob Pressly, Vice President Todd Gilbert and Assistant Superintendent of Finance Kathleen Wetmore-Chase.

A representative from the school board did not respond to multiple requests for comment Monday. The Board of Education regularly updates the public regarding the land-sale discussion at its meetings, but the board will not be holding another meeting until Aug. 1, according to the district website.

In April, 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 late June, the Board of Education presented the town with an asking price of $1.3 million for the land, along with other “tangible aspects” that would make up for an asking price that is lower than BBL’s offer for the property.

Some possibilities for the other tangible aspects included the shared cost of a consultant to plan improvements to the parcel, or funding for maintenance of athletic fields behind Arongen and Shatekon elementary schools.

The school board faced heavy backlash over the closed-door nature of the BBL negotiations, but the recent meetings are not open to the public either, as neither body sends enough elected representatives to constitute a quorum.

Officials involved have defended the meetings being private, pointing out that the meetings are negotiations and that it would be difficult for the two sides to reach a deal if the meetings were held as a public forum, or in a way in which negotiators felt reservations about thinking out loud or bouncing ideas back and forth.

Any deal reached would need to be put up for another referendum. In a letter from the school board to the town, the district expressed the desire to see that referendum happen possibly in the fall, and a closing of the deal by the first quarter of 2018.

The next meeting date has not yet been set, Barrett said Monday evening.