The Planning Department affects the lives of all Schenectady County residents by coordinating sound planning with local, state and federal agencies. The Planning Department has the ability to extend comprehensive services which encompass many aspects of planning, zoning, subdivision and environmental review, riverfront revitalization, transportation planning and traffic safety, recycling/solid waste planning, ground water protection, airport planning, agricultural protection and promotion and part and recreation development.
An integral responsibility of the Planning Department is to provide advice and technical assistance to the County Manager, the Schenectady County Legislature, and municipal governments. Through comprehensive planning, balancing economic development and the preservation of resources our quality of life and natural environment can be enhanced.
Examples of services that are beneficial to county residents include:
- Comprehensive, metropolitan, regional and municipal planning
- Securing federal & state grants for large and small scale projects
- Reviewing local development proposals
- Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board and Ag District
New York State's Agricultural District Law (Article 25AA of the Agriculture and Markets Law) authorizes the creation of county agricultural districts. Agricultural districts are legally recognized geographical areas, predominantly comprised of viable agricultural lands, conforming to tax parcel boundaries. Districts must be approved by the county legislative body and the NYS Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets.
The purpose of the agricultural district program is to encourage the continued use of farmland for agricultural production by creating an economic and regulatory climate supportive of farming. The Schenectady County Agricultural District is currently comprised of 19,515 acres or approximately 14 percent of the County’s total land area (see map).
The agricultural district program is based on a combination of landowner incentives and protections, all of which are designed to forestall the conversion of farmland to non-agricultural uses. Included in these benefits are preferential real property tax treatment (agricultural assessment and special benefit assessment), and protections against overly restrictive local laws, government funded acquisition or construction projects, and private nuisance suits involving agricultural practices. While the law does not provide complete protection for farming and farmers, it is an important mechanism to support agriculture and maintain farmland. A more complete summary of the Agricultural District Law can be found on the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets web site at: https://agriculture.ny.gov/system/files/documents/2020/01/summary-agrdistrict-law.pdf
Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board
The principal responsibility of the County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board (AFPB) is to review landowner applications for inclusion in the County’s Agricultural District during the annual 30-day review period. The AFPB also prepares a report for the County Legislature for the eight-year review of the District concerning in part the status of farming within the District, the extent to which local comprehensive plans and zoning laws are consistent with and support the District, and a recommendation to continue or modify District boundaries.
Agricultural District Review and Application Process
Annual 30-Day Review Period
Under NYS Agricultural and Markets Law (Article 25-AA) the County Legislature is required to establish an annual 30-day review period to give landowners an opportunity to request inclusion
in the Agricultural District. The Schenectady County Legislature has established December 1st through December 30th as the annual application period. Landowners interested in adding property to the Agricultural District must complete a review worksheet and submit it to the Schenectady County Department of Economic Development and Planning at the address below during this review period.
Schenectady County Department of Economic Development and Planning
ATTN: Stephen Feeney
107 Nott Terrace, Suite 303
Schenectady, NY 12308
Fax: (518) 382-5539
Or call Stephen Feeney at (518) 386-2225 x 9-226 for more information.
The application can also be submitted electronically to: Steve.Feeney@schenectadycounty.com
The Schenectady County Agricultural District was created in 1988 and must be reviewed and recertified by the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets every eight years. The eight-year review process presents an opportunity to analyze the County’s agricultural base and offers the County Legislature the opportunity to alter the boundaries of the district in recognition of changing land uses. The primary goal of the review is to ensure that the agricultural district consists predominantly of viable agricultural land.
The County Legislature recently completed the 2019 eight-year review with assistance from the County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board (AFPB). View a copy of the AFPB’s report to the County Legislature.
- Brownsfield Assessment Project
Schenectady County has received a grant from the United States Environmental Protection Agency for $350,000 to identify, assess and evaluate Brownfields in Schenectady County. Brownfields are sites where real or suspected environmental contamination prevents full economic use of the site. Because the contamination may only be suspected, investigation alone may free sites up for development or for recreational uses. Otherwise the investigation is the first step toward receiving state and/or federal money to cleanup the site.
- Environmental Advisory Council
SCEAC is made up of volunteers who share a strong commitment to preserving and enhancing the County’s rich environmental resources. The Council consists of 12 at-large members nominated by the Schenectady County Manager and appointed by the Schenectady County Legislature, plus members representing local environmental conservation commissions and six exofficio members.
Powers and Charges of the Schenectady County Environmental Advisory Council
- Advises the County Legislature on matters affecting the preservation, development and use of the natural and man-made features of the County, insofar as they have a bearing on environmental quality.
- Evaluates activities, projects and operations that may effect the environment to determine where major threats to environmental quality exist and, where appropriate, proposes remedial actions.
- Raises public awareness concerning the importance of a healthy environment, gathers and disseminates public comment on environmental issues and encourages public support of environmentally sound policies and actions.
- Supports County's Department of Economic Development and Planning's environmental program activities and makes recommendations to enhance their plans and programs.
- Improves the coordination and effectiveness of programs undertaken by the public and private agencies to preserve and enhance the environment.
- Assesses the state of the County’s environment and produces an annual report that includes discussions of current problem areas and outlines priorities for future action.
- Recommends additions to the County Nature and Historic Preserve.
- Geographic Information System
Since 1992 the Schenectady County Planning Department, with help from an Environmental Protection Agency grant, has been expanding its Geographic Information System (GIS). Our GIS has grown in to a state-of-the art system with an extensive list of computer-generated themes. The GIS is an important tool for County administrators-providing assistance in the information requests, creation of maps and demonstrations for various projects. The GIS staff also provides technical assistance to local municipalities, public organizations and private businesses within Schenectady County. Some of the issues studied with the GIS are economic development, land use and zoning changes, natural resource inventories, agricultural preservation and riverfront development.
The GIS also provides a depository for aerial photographs and maps. Digital aerial photos (ortho-imagery) are available at the Planning Department for viewing purposes only.
Available maps include original maps created for specific planning studies such as the Aquifer Protection Zones (PLATE 1), Agricultural Districts, Parks Inventory and other municipal base maps. Some of these maps are available for distribution and may require a fee.
GIS Day is held every November during Nation Geography Awareness Week to make residents aware of our GIS Capabilities. County Planning hosts an open house, and gives a presentation how we use GIS in planning projects through the county.
- Great Flats Aquifer
The Great Flats, or the Schenectady Aquifer, is a unique groundwater resource and is one of the most productive aquifers in New York State. The Great Flats Aquifer serves as a reliable source of high quality drinking water for nearly 150,000 residents of both Schenectady and Saratoga Counties. On an average day, approximately 25 million gallons of water are withdrawn from the aquifer by the five Schenectady County municipalities listed below:
- Mohawk Hudson Bike/Hike Trail Projects
The Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail provides a unique recreational resource for Schenectady County and its visitors....a long off-road paved bicycle path-unavailable in most parts of the Country. The trail begins within the hamlet of Pattersonville in the Town of Rotterdam and travels eastward to the Erastus Corning Riverfront Preserve in downtown Albany.
Built during the late 1970's and early 1980's, the trail was constructed directly upon the old Erie Canal towpath and former railroad grades of the area's first transportation routes. At approximately 35 miles in length, the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail is one of the longest paved rail-trails in the United States.
In Schenectady County alone, the trail is about 21 miles long and completely continuous except for a short gap in Rotterdam Junction and a 1.25 mile gap in the City of Schenectady where the trail traverses local streets through the Stockade Historic District.
Empire Trail Wayfinding Plan - Seeking Public Input
Now that the trail is complete in Schenectady County, we are seeking the public's input on a new trail wayfinding draft plan.
The County's draft plan offers recommendations for new signage, including:
- Trail etiquette signs to improve safety;
- Interpretive signs to showcase the County's rich history and landmarks; and
- Directional signs to point trail users to nearby dining, shopping and accommodations.
Anyone interested in providing comments on the draft plan or suggestions about bike and hike trails in Schenectady County are invited to send them to email@example.com.
Comments are requested by December 31, 2021.