Clifton Park, New York

The Town of Clifton Park, population 32,995 (2000), is located in Saratoga County five miles east of Schenectady and ten miles north of Albany, New York. Interstate Highway 87, which traverses the Town, offers easy access to Albany and other cities in the Hudson River Valley as well as New York City, 160 miles to the south.

Clifton Park, New York uses TDR to protect farms, trails, scenic roads, historic resources and natural areas like these wetlands on the Mohawk Towpath Byway, part of the Erie Canal Greenway that links to other greenways throughout New York.

In May 2005, the Town adopted the Open Space Incentive Zoning provision, designed to help implement various open space preservation goals. In this program, the potential sending sites are called amenities and include nature preserves, watersheds, wetlands, stream corridors, ecological resources, environmentally sensitive areas, active farms, trails, scenic roads, historic/cultural resources, recreational sites and other open space. The receiving sites are referred to as incentive sites. Increases in residential density and commercial uses on incentive sites can be approved within three Western Clifton zoning districts when the Town Board accepts open space amenities offered by developers in any or all of the following forms: 1) permanent easement on Town-identified open space parcels; 2) permanent protection in fee simple for Town-identified open space parcels; and 3) cash payment to the Town’s open space fund, which is used exclusively for open space protection.

For single-family residential increases, each bonus dwelling unit on an incentive site requires the preservation of three acres of amenity site land or payment of $30,000. (This constitutes a one-to-one transfer ratio.) Using this technique, maximum density can be twice that of the incentive site’s base density.

In the Town’s HM (Hamlet Mixed) zone, single-family residential increases can occur as allowed in the other two applicable zones. In addition, the following formula applies to commercial, two-family, semi-detached and multifamily dwelling incentives.

Development Density Increase Amenity Required
Office 1,000 square feet of gross floor area 1 acre preserved land or $20,000 ($20/sf)
Retail 1,000 square feet of gross floor area 1.5 acres preserved land or $30,000 ($30/sf)
Two-family, semidetached, and multifamily apartments over commercial or retail ground floor area One equivalent unit 2 acres preserved land or $20,000

When this provision is used, maximum density is capped at twice the baseline density of the incentive site.

An application for bonus density under this provision must include an estimate of the cash value of the proposed amenity. The Town Board initially decides whether the application deserves further consideration. If so, the application is referred to the Planning Board for a recommendation. The Planning Board conducts a public workshop prior to its decision. The Town Board holds a public hearing and can only approve a proposed incentive site project after making five findings. In addition to finding that the incentive site project can be accommodated by infrastructure and that the public benefit of the proposed amenity is commensurate with the incentive, the Town Board must find that the proposed amenity benefits the incentive area specifically.

As of January 2006, a proposal to use this provision was scheduled for a Town Board decision. The applicant is requesting 11 bonus single-family residential units in return for a cash payment of $30,000 per bonus unit, or $330,000, to the Town’s open space fund.