Poughkeepsie… Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus and Bradford Kendall, Chairman of the Legislature, have announced the Town of Union Vale expects to join in partnership with the Dutchess Land Conservancy and Dutchess County to provide a local dollar match for the purchase of development rights on a 189-acre property located in the town. The Abel Tree Farm is considered to be one of the most picturesque farm businesses in Central Dutchess. This action by the town will enable the partnership to take full advantage of Dutchess County’s Partnership for Manageable Growth, an open space and farmland protection program Steinhaus and Kendall helped author and spearhead.
“Saving open space and protecting farmland throughout Dutchess County is important to all of us. In areas where development pressures are severe, it is essential partnerships are formed to make the land’s preservation possible,” according to Steinhaus. “It is my belief this process must include a funding commitment from the locality where the land is located before County tax dollars are allocated. Therefore, I am very pleased Chairman Kendall, both in his capacity as Chairman of the Legislature and legislator representing part of Union Vale, has worked with the Town to encourage their participation.”
The Abel Tree Farm is located on North Clove Road in the Town of Union Vale. The farm is part of the Verbank core farmland area that lies within the Sprout Creek Watershed, one of the ten principal agricultural areas in Dutchess County. It is owned by Stephen Abel and his four adult children, and the farm has been operated by the Abel family since 1850.
Chairman Kendall worked with Supervisor Lisette Hitsman and the Union Vale Town Board to garner the final funding piece necessary to trigger County funds. “This is another example of local participation leveraging other sources for farmland preservation, and will be noteworthy for the variety of funding sources. Also especially important is the landowner’s decision to offer a bargain price,” added Kendall. The Chairman concluded by saying, “Preservation of this farm is essential to maintaining the rural character of Union Vale.”
Supervisor Hitsman stated, "The Town of Union Vale is delighted to be part of this worthy project to preserve open space."
The estimated value of the acquisition is slightly more than $1,000,000. Fifty-five percent, or $595,000 of the funding has been pledged to the project by private funding, including funds raised by the Dutchess Land Conservancy and a bargain sale agreement with the landowner. If approved and recommended as expected by the Town of Union Vale and by the County Planning Board, $100,000 will be provided by the Town of Union Vale and $387,000 by Dutchess County. The public contribution, including the Town of Union Vale and Dutchess County funding represents 45 percent of the total value.
The Abel Tree Farm is a choose-and-cut Christmas tree operation that receives approximately 3,000 visitors each holiday season. The farm is currently planted with over 40,000 trees on 40 acres; the 189-acre property also includes 32 acres of pasture, 70 acres of woodlands and 45 acres of water or wetlands, including a large lake. The Abels plan to use the funds from selling their development rights both to allow them to increase the acreage in planted trees and to purchase equipment for producing landscaping trees.
The Dutchess County Planning Board is scheduled to vote Wednesday whether to recommend the County provide funding in partnership with the Town and the Dutchess Land Conservancy to purchase the development rights on this important farm resource. The recommendation would be contingent upon the Town authorizing its share of the funding. The Union Vale Town Board will meet Thursday, November 3, at 7 PM at the Union Vale Town Hall.
Protection of the farm will bring the total number of agricultural and open space acres protected by the County’s program to almost 2,000 acres at a cost to the County of approximately $4.2 million, a 36% share of the $11.6 million total value of the lands protected to date.
The program was originally launched by County Executive Steinhaus in 1999. A total of $7 million county dollars have been committed for the program with a goal of 10,000 acres to be preserved.