Hartford House Subdivision

The three words in the title above are likely to spark fear in many traditional Geneseo minds and wild rumors around the county. Yes, I have applied to the Village Planning Board to divide my 70 acre estate into three parcels, but don’t expect to see any major developments going up, other than the addition of some more tennis courts at the Genesee Volley Tennis Club.

For one thing, a conservation easement placed on the land by my parents prevents me from building more than one additional house on the bulk of the estate. Even though I could develop the 7.7 acre area near the Gate House (Called Lot 1 in the subdivision plan), my financial position is not yet so bad that I am forced to consider that.

The main motivation for my action is to clear the way for the continued growth of the tennis club I founded last year when I built one Har-Tru (clay) court. The club had a very good first year and already has over 50 playing members. As the club grows we will soon surpass the playing capacity of one court and I can’t afford to build more Har-Tru courts on my own.

The main idea of the subdivision is to provide collateral so that expansion of the club can be financed without involving the rest of the estate. A 7.5-acre parcel (Lot 3) has been carved out of the north end of my property (bordering my sister Susan’s part of the original estate) for future development of the club. This would be sufficient to provide for at least 7 additional courts if the demand would ever require that.

The area in Lot 3 is also the area designated by the conservation easement for my lone additional house, so if everything goes south, and the club goes bust, it could be sold as a single family home site. To make that more practical (and thus better collateral), the lot contains access to Avon Road opposite the former Balconi car dealership so it would not be landlocked. Again there are no immediate plans to construct a driveway there, but it could be done in the future if needed.

A secondary reason for this move is to make the growth of the club less of a insurance risk to me personally. Even though the club has been formed as a not-for-profit corporation and I lease the court area to the corporation, and even though the corporation carries liability insurance and has agreed to hold me harmless, the fact that the court is on the same parcel as my home and the only access is across my land apparently raises concerns among insurance underwriters. These concerns recently led to my personal umbrella coverage being canceled which is a situation I am not very comfortable with.

Finally, this move would allow the remaining 56 acres of my land (Lot 2) to be included in an Ag district. That jives with my plan to return to small-scale farming this spring. I have purchased a small 50 horsepower John Deere, a two bottom plow, a two-row cornplanter and a 72″ pto rototiller in preparation for growing about 5 acres of vegetables. This will be nothing like the 600+ acres operation I ran in Caledonia in the 1980s, but I hope to put my farming experience to good use making a profit this time.

Being in an official Ag district provides many protections for farming operations under state law and guarantees the right to farm, even in a village. In order to be approved for that I have to apply to the county in September, and I can’t have any non-agricultural activities on the same parcel.

This does not necessarily mean I will apply for or receive an Agricultural Exemption on my property taxes. I don’t think the Assessor is hitting me too bad on my vacant land right now, although my total assessment of $660,000 is no doubt among the highest in the village for a single-family home. If this goes through, though, I will get a separate tax bill for the tennis club which I can pass along to the club.

So there you have it. There are no other secret agendas, although I don’t expect everybody to believe that. I’ve always been served well by the advice that I got when I first came to town almost 40 years ago: “In Geneseo, people don’t care what you do, as long as they know about it!” If you want to know more, you are welcome to attend the next meeting of the planning board on Feb. 25 at 4 pm. I am on the agenda and it is a public meeting. In the meantime here is the concept map of my plan.

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