By Dan Hust
SULLIVAN COUNTY Notwithstanding the focus of its title, the Open Space Institute (OSI) has just released a study of the privately-owned areas most “preferred” for development in the Catskills’ four-county region.
And Sullivan County ranks #1.
“Sullivan County,” said the study, “has both the highest percentage of its open space resources in private ownership (83 percent) and the greatest percentage of preferred growth area (30 percent), which is largely concentrated in the center of the county and coincides with significant, established infrastructure.”
Specifically, the townships of (in descending order) Tusten, Thompson, Cochecton, Fallsburg, Highland, Forestburgh and Lumberland rated the highest in all the towns comprising Sullivan, Delaware, Ulster and Greene counties.
The towns of Bethel, Callicoon, Delaware, Fremont, Liberty and Mamakating weren’t far behind either, while Neversink didn’t rank nearly as high, and Rockland featured no such “preferred growth” areas due to the latter two towns’ locations within the protected Catskill Park and New York City watershed.
In simplest terms, here’s how OSI arrived at those numbers:
The study’s researchers calculated each township’s open space resources the amount of land needed and used for agriculture, water quality, recreation, and wildlife habitat.
They also determined the amount of already developed land plus unusable properties (i.e., featuring steep slopes) and land under public ownership, then took a look at what was left after excluding those parcels.
They found more than half a million acres of developable land remaining in private hands across the four-county region 192,170 acres in Sullivan County alone, translating to 30 percent of its total land area.
In Tusten, for example, 51 percent of its 31,682 acres turned out to be “preferred growth” land privately-owned areas that can sustain development without degrading the town’s open space resources, according to the OSI.
(It should be noted, however, that data on developed parcels was only available for 65 percent of Sullivan County.)
“This study shows that appropriately placed development can coexist with the region’s natural resources, bolstering opportunities for reliable, year-round employment,” OSI CEO Kim Elliman wrote in the study’s introduction. “It also indicates that the existing development footprint might quadruple, if appropriately sited, without compromising the economy or ecology of private farm and forestland resources.”
For more info and to download a copy of the full study, log on to www.osiny.org.
Coming Friday: what locals had to say about the study.