Sprawl Costs Money

The Schenectady City Council has called for a public hearing on rescinding the 1969 ordinance which established the Woodlawn Preserve on Monday, July 14 at 7:30 at Schenectady City Hall, Jay Street, Schenectady.

Members of the public are allowed three minutes each to speak at the public hearing. Speakers are carefully timed by the Council, to ensure that everyone gets their fair chance to speak.

City Council members have expressed interest in hearing from residents of Schenectady on this issue. People are welcome to attend the hearing to show their support for preserving Woodlawn. Not everyone needs to speak.

At the last City Council Planning and Development Committee meeting, the Committee called for other development proposals for the Woodlawn Preserve. Save the Pine Bush (SPB) submitted a proposal for preservation of the Woodlawn Preserve as a passive park and preserve area.

In its proposal, Save the Pine Bush described the Woodlawn Area as inappropriate for development due to the historical globally-rare natural community called the Pine Bush and wetlands that exist there. The low areas of the property are sensitive wetlands and the high areas (or upland) are historically known as a pitch-pine scrub oak natural community. In addition to the rare natural community and wetlands, the Pine Bush is home to several rare species that depend on this type of natural community for their existence.

Furthermore, the long-term viability and existence of the species that occupy the Pine Bush natural community and wetlands are dependent on large tracts of unbroken habitat. The existence of a parcel of this size in Albany or Schenectady Counties is very rare. In addition, the Woodlawn area is located in close proximity to protected lands that are part of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve. The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission has spent decades of effort and millions of dollars to actively acquire remaining parcels of Pine Bush in Albany County.

SPB asked that the City of Schenectady seek partnerships with groups with expertise in maintaining this habit.

The preservation proposal cited the Schenectady County Environmental Advisory Council Plan for Preservation of the Woodlawn Area and the fact that the Town of Niskayuna also has made recommendations for preserving the portion of property adjacent to the City of Schenectady’s property.

There are many advantages to city residents to preserve the Woodlawn Area, as cited in the preservation proposal.

The Woodlawn Preserve could be an outdoor classroom for education and research for City schools and universities. It has some of the largest sand dunes found in the Pine Bush. The area is one of the most biologically diverse areas found in Schenectady County because of the combination of swamp, open wetlands, water bodies and dune vegetation.

People like to live near amenities such as maintained nature preserves. The demand for residences near open space raises local property values, thereby raising taxes for the City.

If maintained as a nature preserve, the City residents would have access to outdoor educational and recreational opportunities.

The Woodlawn Area is in close proximity to the Albany Pine Bush Preserve found to the east. The vision for the area is to link Woodlawn to nearby preserve lands to create a recreational greenway that would lead all the way to Rensselaer Lake in Albany. Furthermore, there is an effort to connect the Albany Pine Bush to other Greenways, which would give Schenectady residents a link to the Pine Bush and beyond.

In 1969, the City of Schenectady designated this area as Preserve. The City is in a unique position of owning Pine Bush land. Other municipalities and the State of New York have spent millions of dollars to acquire Pine Bush land for preservation. Adding the Woodlawn Area to the Pine Bush Preserve would help to create a viable Pine Bush Preserve.

For a project of this magnitude, the City of Schenectady needs to follow the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), which could be quite expensive. Prior to rescinding the 1969 ordinance which set this land aside for public purposes, the City must prepare an Environmental Impact Statement.

Also, at least two wetlands permits have been issued for this area. One required the City to prepare and Environmental Impact Statement for this area to “assure that development will not occur in a piece meal fashion. . .” The other permit was issued to the City of Schenectady and reviews special requirements to take care of the Pine Bush ecosystem and the Karner Blue butterfly. The City Council will need to determine if the requirements were met, and how any future development will impact the area.

SPB urged the City Council to consider the proposal to permanently protect this land from development, make it part of the Pine Bush Preserve, and make it available for all residents to enjoy as a passive park and preserve area.

Save the Pine Bush urges you, the reader, to attend the Public Hearing on July 14.