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County Agrees to Preserve Yorktown Farm

With proponents describing it as a valuable piece of farmland that needed to be preserved the Westchester County Board of Legislators voted unanimously Monday to purchase Hilltop Hanover Farm in Yorktown.

There will be up to $3.1 million in bonds issued by the county to pay for the 180-acre site.

The county will sell about 129 acres to the New York City Department of Environmental Conservation (DEP) for $927,000.

The city will manage its portion of the property, which is close to its New Croton Reservoir, for passive recreational uses. Fifty acres west of Hanover Street will continue to be farmed and five acres will be utilized by the Cornell Cooperative Extension and other organizations for an environmental education center.

The land is currently owned by Giles Brophy and John Sites and includes houses, barns and maintenance buildings.

Prior to the vote, three Yorktown residents urged the board to purchase the property.

Resident Jim Metzner said by buying the land it was "going to be open to the entire county."

Supervisor Linda Cooper read from a Town Board resolution approved September 7.

"Hilltop Hanover Farm has a beautiful landscape, agricultural character and ambiance overlooking Croton Heights and the Croton Reservoir that should be shared with the rest of Westchester County in perpetuity," Cooper said, adding that the farm "is in close proximity to the Croton Reservoir and preservation of this land will play a major role in protecting Westchester County's and New York City's water supplies."

Legislator Michael Kaplowitz said it was important to preserve the land because, "once they (farms) are developed they are lost forever."

By purchasing the land, the board would have "a legacy that will speak louder than any words," Kaplowitz said.

As part of the agreement to buy the land, the board will vote on an amendment of its April 2000 agreement with the Town of Cortlandt to pay $1 million toward the purchase of the 352-acre Hillpoint property.

On October 15, the county board is slated to approve legislation that would change the agreement so that Cortlandt will not have $500,000 taken back by the county if at least 68 affordable housing units would be developed by November 15, 2001 and another 69 affordable homes developed by September 1, 2002.

According to the legislation, "while it appears that the town will be unable to have the appropriate number of units constructed in time to meet the above deadlines, the county recognizes that the town has and continues to make good faith efforts to encourage the development of affordable housing within its boarders and therefore is willing to amend the agreement."

Under the original legislation to contribute toward the purchase of Hillpoint, the town had agreed to develop 137 affordable units by September 1, 2002. Under the amendment, the 137 units will not be required to be developed until September 1, 2004, with no interim deadlines.

In an interview following Monday's meeting, Legislator George Oros (R-C/Cortlandt) said he originally had concerns about purchasing the Yorktown property because the board did not include affordable housing requirements similar to the ones imposed on Cortlandt.

Source: by Neal Rentz, North County News, October 3 - 9, 2001, p. 13

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