Partnership keeps agricultural land affordable for farmers, provides a suitable site for affordable housing, and will connect public parks with new trails
For Immediate Release
Scenic Hudson Director of Creative Strategies & Communications
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Town of Red Hook Supervisor
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Dutchess Land Conservancy President
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RED HOOK (Dutchess County) — Supporting the town’s agricultural economy, providing a site for much-needed affordable housing, and creating new opportunities for outdoor enjoyment, the Town of Red Hook, Scenic Hudson, and the Dutchess Land Conservancy partnered on two transactions to protect 169 acres. The Cookingham farmland straddles Route 9 and serves as the northern gateway to the Village of Red Hook.
A long-standing community asset and a point of local pride, the two Cookingham Farm properties were “highest priorities” for conservation both in the town’s Community Preservation Plan and Scenic Hudson’s Foodshed Conservation Plan. They also were desirable locations for development due to their proximity to existing village water and sewer lines.
Land will sustain agriculture, offers excellent opportunity for affordable housing
On Route 9’s eastern side, the partners collaborated to protect 97 acres, including 63 acres of prime farmland. Twelve acres situated in the village and suitable for affordable housing was set aside for that use. The town purchased the property outright, and a conservation easement on the agricultural portion of the land was purchased by Scenic Hudson. The easement provides safeguards to ensure that the land remains permanently available for farming and can only be sold at its agricultural value, making it affordable for future farmers. Dutchess Land Conservancy holds and will steward the conservation easement on the lands, which the town plans to sell to a farmer.
The town and RUPCO, a nonprofit with a 40-year track record in creating affordable housing in mid-Hudson Valley communities, continue to negotiate the terms of RUPCO’s proposed purchase of the remaining 12 acres, which is excluded from the conservation easement. The current vision is for a combination of a limited number of both rental apartments and owner-occupied, single-family homes and a barn retrofit.
Scenic Hudson, Dutchess Land Conservancy, and RUPCO are all part of the Hudson Valley Affordable Housing and Conservation Strategy, an innovative collaboration of land trusts and affordable housing organizations conserving critical landscapes and responding to the region’s housing crisis.
Second conserved parcel adjoins town, village parks
To the west of Route 9, the town, Scenic Hudson, and Dutchess Land Conservancy again partnered to protect 72 acres, including some 19 acres of prime agricultural land as well as forested land adjoining the town’s Recreation Park, the Village of Red Hook’s Richard M. Abrahams Memorial Park, and Sawkill Creek.
As with the previous transaction, the town has placed the farmland portion of this property under a conservation easement, again with a safeguard for future affordability as a farm, which the Dutchess Land Conservancy holds. The town also plans to sell this land but will retain approximately 38 acres to buffer the two public parks and wells utilized for the municipal water supply. The town also plans to establish passive public recreational trails that will connect to the adjacent parks.
To acquire both properties, the town used funds from its Community Preservation Fund and a separate Incentive Zoning Fund. Scenic Hudson funding for the transactions came from its Lila Acheson and DeWitt Wallace Hudson Valley Land Preservation Endowment.
Town of Red Hook Supervisor Robert McKeon said “This project represents a wonderful opportunity to accomplish so many public purposes for our residents. Protection of scenic resources; with a trail network to enjoy the working landscapes and Catskill mountain views. Important farmlands capable of the highest productivity and a small reserved area for attractive housing to complement investments already being made in the village. The initiative includes provisions to ensure clean drinking water for generations to come. None of this would be possible without the foresight of Red Hook residents, who in 2007 voted to enact a Community Preservation Fund, and without the Cookingham family, who in the face of family loss made decisions that will benefit others.”
Executive Director of The Scenic Hudson Land Trust, Inc. and Land Programs Seth McKee said, “Protecting these lands demonstrates the power of partnerships in completing real estate transactions with tight deadlines. Scenic Hudson commends the Town of Red Hook for being one of the Hudson Valley’s most proactive municipalities in conserving farmland and open space, and now innovating in providing space for affordable housing. We’re excited about RUPCO’s involvement in achieving our shared goals of safeguarding important farmland and providing solutions to our region’s affordable housing crisis.”
Dutchess Land Conservancy President Rebecca Thornton said, “The DLC is incredibly proud to have partnered with the Town of Red Hook and Scenic Hudson to protect this significant gateway farm. The fact that it buffers the Village of Red Hook, will remain open for current and future farming, and that other portions of the land held outside of the conservation easement are strategically dedicated for other uses that are important to the community truly resonates. As part of the Hudson Valley Affordable Housing and Conservation Strategy, we applaud the Town of Red Hook as this project will serve as a model for other projects within our Hudson Valley community.”
Chief Executive Officer of RUPCO Kevin O’Connor said, “We are excited about the opportunity to participate in a project with municipal and non-profit partners to preserve agriculture, open space and create affordable housing.”