A wise move for ecological health could harm the residents of North Harmony economically.
At a recent town board meeting in North Harmony, it was announced that the DEC is in the beginning phases of purchasing a parcel of property on Bootey Bay, currently owned by John McGraw.
The contention surrounding the DEC's stated intent to purchase the parcel in Bootey Bay resides in the fact that, according to Sally Carlson, North Harmony town supervisor, it is one of the last parcels of land on the lake primed and available for commercial development.
According to Carlson, approximately 30 percent of the land in North Harmony is already designated as tax exempt. Although DEC acquisition of lakeside property would likely contribute toward a healthier lake, it would take even more tax revenue off of the books for North Harmony. Carlson and the town board are worried about the additional burden such a purchase would place on the taxpayers of North Harmony. Although Carlson believes the DEC purchasing the parcel of land on Bootey Bay could help the ecology of the lake, she has written a letter to the DEC in opposition of the purchase.
"The Town of North Harmony wishes to express our opposition to the DEC purchase of the Bootey Bay property," said the letter. "While we can endorse the beneficial aspects of the purchase, it is the last large purchase available for development along the lake front in North Harmony. The (DEC) has already acquired two large parcels (along the lake in North Harmony), so when will enough be enough? The preservation makes sense, but the loss of tax revenue on an additional $3 million parcel is difficult to stomach when we are continually faced with increasing costs on all fronts. Does (the DEC) have any financial formula for tax reimbursement? Why didn't (the DEC) buy the parcel three years ago, when it first went up for sale, before the town spent many additional hours reviewing plans for a housing development on the property?" Carlson added at the reading of the letter that it reflects her personal opinions, however the town board seemed to support Carlson's position, and boardmember Dick Sena said he would like to add more to the letter.
"My CLMC hat says, 'Yes, it's a wonderful thing to lock up that property and not have any possibility of runoff from it ending up in the lake,'" said Carlson. "But it really is the last substantial piece of property on the lake front (for development)."
Although it is clear that the North Harmony Town Board will likely oppose the DEC's purchase of the parcel, Carlson said it is important to note that the DEC has not even secured funding to buy the parcel yet, and wanted to express interest to the town as early as possible, so the town could prepare a stance for or against the purchase.
"Apparently the DEC is at the very beginning of this," said Carlson. "They need to come up with funding to get it appraised, and after it is appraised, they need to get funding for the actual purchase. I have to say I was relieved to know that we were able to involve ourselves with this right at the beginning, instead of somewhere down the road. The (DEC) has been excellent in explaining whether it would be possible for them to even get funding."
Carlson said that, as more information on the DEC's intentions becomes available, the topic will be discussed in greater detail.