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 19,817 acres or nearly 15 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.
- Environmental Advisory Council
For more information, contact Charles Davidson, 518-388-4775
- Geographic Information System
Since 1992 the Schenectady County Department of Economic Development and Planning, with help from an Environmental Protection Agency grant, has been expanding its Geographic Information System (GIS). Our GIS, the Schenectady Internet Mapping System (SIMS), has grown into a state-of-the-art system with an extensive list of computer-generated data layers. SIMS is an important tool for County administrators - providing assistance with information requests, creation of maps and demonstrations for various projects. Through SIMS, the Department assists the County's E-911 system, Board of Elections, Public Health Services, Office of Real Property, Emergency Management Office, Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board, Watershed Board and other County agencies. The GIS staff also provide 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. A public GIS application known as SIMS Lite is available, providing access to most of the data layers developed. This application can be accessed at http://www.simsgis.org/lite.
The GIS also provides a depository for historic and current digital aerial photographs and maps. 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-based maps. Some of these maps are available for distribution and may require a fee.
- 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 recreation and alternative transportation resource for Schenectady County residents and visitors…a long off-road paved riverside bicycle path that traverses the entire County and runs through the heart of Downtown Schenectady’s business and entertainment district. As part of the statewide Empire State Trail (EST), the trail enters the County in the hamlet of Pattersonville in the Town of Rotterdam and travels eastward through the City of Schenectady and Town of Niskayuna before entering the Albany County Town of Colonie and finally terminating at the Erastus Corning Riverfront Preserve in downtown Albany. See map at http://www.simsgis.org/lite (Go to: Map Layers, click on: Natural Resources and Recreation, choose: Empire State Trail).
Originally built during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, the trail was constructed directly upon the historic Erie Canal towpath and former railroad grades of the area’s first transportation routes. The County has continued to expand and improve the trail since its first construction and recently added the 1.5-mile Alco Heritage Trail section along the south shore of the Mohawk River between Maxon Road and the Front Street Neighborhood in the City of Schenectady.
At approximately 42 miles in length and connecting the City of Schenectady along the Mohawk River and the City of Albany along the Hudson River, the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail is a significant component of the EST. As part of completing the EST, the County saw significant investment recently by the State of New York with the construction of two railroad underpasses in Rotterdam and completion of the County’s off-road trail. This project completed the connection to the Montgomery County trail section to the west and dramatically increased the safety of the trail by eliminating the need to ride along busy streets. The EST is now substantially complete as a largely continuous off-road route spanning the state from Buffalo to Albany creating the longest multi-use trail in the nation.
In Schenectady County alone, the trail is about 25 miles long and now completely off-road except for a short .75-mile gap in the City of Schenectady where the trail traverses local streets through the Stockade Historic District. The County’s recently completed Mohawk Hudson Bike Trail Extension Feasibility Report identifies alternatives to extend the trail and reduce the on-road section to a mere 0.2 miles along Washington Avenue in the Stockade Neighborhood.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comments are requested by December 31, 2021.