The Saratoga Springs Planning Board has given an application for a key zoning change requested by Pitney Meadows a unanimous favorable advisory opinion.
The application asks the City to regard Pitney Meadows as a “planned unit development,” or PUD, a zoning district designation that will give the organization greater flexibility as it aims to become a major center for sustainable farming, education, and the training of farmers in advanced, small-scale techniques. The Planning Board took the action at its March 23rd meeting.
Although the total Pitney Meadows property covers 166 acres, the restrictions defined by the PUD apply only to 11.69 acres on which most of the farm’s buildings, activities, parking, and events will be concentrated. The PUD defines acceptable uses on three sections of the farm’s “triangle,” where, eventually, the main entrance will be located at the corner of West Avenue and Congress Street.
“The proposed PUD has allowed for a productive dialogue so far on the vision for Pitney Meadows, the City’s goals and standards, and further detail on the proposed activities, physical structures and layout of the future community farm," said Kate Maynard, principal planner for the City. "Ensuring the existing conservation easement for the property is appropriately reflected, and balancing the desire for flexibility with where additional structure to the proposed PUD may be needed have been important themes so far. The City Council will receive the original proposed legislation with proposed changes that have been made based on Planning Board guidance.“
Now that the Planning Board has acted, the application goes to the City Council for a public hearing, and required SEQR environmental review. A potential vote for the proposed PUD could come at its April 18th meeting. With a positive vote by the City Council, the PUD would be officially incorporated into the city's zoning ordinance.
Pitney Meadows will need to come back to the Planning Board for review and approvals as laid out within the proposed PUD legislation.
When the process is completed, Pitney Meadows will move forward swiftly to implement three projects that its Board of Directors have determined to be of particular priority in the farm's first year:
- Establishment of community gardens;
- Construction of a children’s greenhouse and gardens, funded partially by $25,000 donated by the Alfred Z. Solomon Charitable Trust;
- Construction of a “high tunnel” which can grow crops or possibly be multi-purpose.
Renovation of the farmhouse on the property is well underway, with electrical service now fully installed and the installation of other utilities -- sewer, natural gas, and a 12-inch water main -- scheduled for this spring.
Many new volunteers have joined the effort since a well-attended public forum on March 5th, bringing the circle of those who are contributing directly to the project to more than 100. Fundraising continues to be a major focus as the organization seeks to repay a bridge loan provided by the Adirondack Trust Company.
"We appreciate the careful review that the Planning Board has given to our application," said Sandy Arnold, Pitney Meadows president. "Their input has helped us to strengthen our plan in a number of ways. This is an important step toward the City Council's review of our application and this change in the property's zoning that's essential to our moving forward."