The Open Space Preservation Commission consists of seven members and two alternate members appointed by the Board of Selectmen.
In an effort to preserve New Hartford's rural character and restrain residential development, the Open Space Preservation Commission hopes to double the meadows, forest and farmland that are protected as open space. The commission will prioritize land parcels for preservation, form relationships with landowners, and develop partnerships with allied organizations.
The Commission and a Land Preservation Fund were created by ordinance in June 2004. Members were appointed in November 2004 and met for the first time in January 2004. The Commission's aim is to implement the goals of the Town's Open Space Plan (written and adopted in April 2002).
The Plan focuses on increasing the amount of protected open space to about 8,000 acres, or 30 percent of the land in New Hartford. Currently, 3,335 of the town's 24,362 acres are permanently protected open space. This refers to land that is left in its natural state or for farming or forestry, and that preserves agriculture, scenic views, water quality, wildlife, passive recreation and archeological sites.
The Plan's basic premise is that open space saves taxpayers money because it requires virtually no municipal services. Residential development costs the town $1.58 in services for every tax dollar generated versus $0.05 per dollar for open space. The commission will bring this message to the public, emphasizing the urgency of land preservation at a time when large-scale residential development threatens the uniqueness of New Hartford.
A variety of preservation mechanisms are available, aside from outright purchases of land, and many of them keep the land under private ownership and control. The commission will facilitate voluntary tailor-made arrangements that help landowners keep their property the way they like it. It will also look into multiple funding sources, including bonding, state and private grants, and tax incentives.