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Property owners briefed on details of Fort Drum training area buffer program

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COPENHAGEN — As Fort Drum and affiliated groups push their land conservation focus to property south of the installation, farmers received a pitch on a program that would purchase their long-term development rights.

The Army Compatible Use Buffer program, a partnership among the post, the Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust and Ducks Unlimited, has spent more than $3 million in the past few years to limit development in areas deemed important by the post. Eleven projects have been included in the program, which covers about 2,430 acres around the post, primarily on its western side.

About 10 property owners came to the first of two sessions Thursday at Grace Episcopal Church, 21 Cataract St.

Linda M. Garrett, the land trust’s executive director, stressed that the permanent deals could be negotiated to allow a wide range of agricultural uses into the future.

“You could be a dairy farm today and a vineyard tomorrow,” Mrs. Garrett said. “It’s very flexible, because who knows how things will be into the future.”

The post has shifted its focus to the south because of concerns about wind turbines.

“This wasn’t something we could really see in 2008,” said Michael J. Richardson, a strategic planner for the post’s Garrison Command.

He said the expansion was made more urgent by discussions earlier this year about the placement of turbines north of the Maple Ridge site in Lowville, whose development he said the post is monitoring.

He said turbines could affect the post’s tracking systems and the routes of low-flying aircraft.

“The movement causes havoc with our radar,” he said.

With the program in its early stages in the southern areas, there were few details about what kinds of prices farmers could find for their development rights. Donald A. Fisher, an appraiser with Pomeroy Appraisal Associates Inc., Syracuse, said that he had been studying local property values since the summer, and that one appraisal was ongoing.

However, Mrs. Garrett said during the meeting that property owners could receive multiple state and federal tax credits by taking part in the program.

Mr. Richardson said the development of the program hinges on the number of interested property owners, along with the amount of funding made available by the Department of Defense. The program received about $1.4 million in 2012, which Mr. Richardson called average compared with previous years.

Some of the farmers in the audience appeared to be positive about the program’s possible benefits.

Robert G. Nevills, who owns land in Denmark that he leases to a crop farmer, said he had been propositioned several times for certain rights for his land.

“I don’t want to see farmland developed like it has been,” Mr. Nevills said.

In addition to an offer he received for his wind development rights, he received one that would have turned portions of his land into a housing subdivision.

“I got too many neighbors, and they’re my sons,” Mr. Nevills joked.

Paul A. Dellapapa, who owns vacant land in Champion, said he had been contacted by companies looking to add cellphone towers and wind turbines, but he wasn’t interested.

“Wind generates power, but I think it’s an eyesore,” he said.

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