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Conservation Easement PR

Energy Star Press Release

Conservation Easement PR

FOR IMMEDIATE PRESS RELEASE                 June 2, 2008

Huge tract of watershed land and wildlife habitat in Cortlandt
is protected forever

The Town of Cortlandt, AVR Homebuilders, Dickerson Pond Homeowners Association, Westchester Land Trust, and the Cortlandt Land Trust agree on the largest conservation easements ever in Westchester

An unprecedented expanse of habitat-rich forests and wetlands surrounding the Valeria community in Cortlandt are being protected forever by conservation easements, thanks to an agreement between AVR Homebuilders and Westchester Land Trust and its Cortlandt Land Trust chapter, in conjunction with the Town of Cortlandt and Valeria’s Dickerson Pond Homeowners Association.

This historic conservation project preserves one of the last, large unprotected and undeveloped tracts in Westchester County. Equally significant, the easement is the largest conservation easement ever in the county – totaling 690 acres, representing conservation of over 90% of the entire community.

The Valeria easements have been granted to Westchester Land Trust by AVR Homebuilders, a progressive, environmentally-sensitive Yonkers-based Development Company. AVR has received approval from the Town of Cortlandt to build a 147-unit cluster subdivision to complement the existing 80-unit Valeria development, bringing the entire Valeria community to 227 homes. The Valeria property had originally been approved in the 1980s for 535 new homes, but commensurate with the desire to protect this environmentally sensitive land, the decision was made to reduce the overall density to only 227 homes, greatly enhancing the value of the community for all its residents.

The protected land stretches across a landscape that is virtually unrivalled in Westchester for its beauty and environmental qualities. It includes the 43-acre Dickerson Pond and the 740-foot Dickerson Mountain. A deciduous forest climbs unbroken from the shores of the lake to the top of the mountain, encompassing rocky outcrops, rolling hills, and numerous brooks, vernal pools and swamps. By protecting the land, the project’s partners are protecting critical watershed lands, wildlife habitat and scenic vistas.

Another environmental precedent involves the most comprehensive relocation and habitat management plan for a colony of box turtles, a state species of special concern, which occupied a portion of the land being developed.  AVR has entered into a 10 year Box Turtle Management Plan with the Town of Cortlandt to recreate box turtle habitat and to monitor them under the supervision of local herpetologists after they have been relocated into their new habitat. 

“Having recognized that the Valeria land is so environmentally rich, and as an industry leader in employing green building techniques and practices, we felt it was critical to factor the unique characteristics of this property into our development plan in an effort to preserve the land’s natural resources and habitats,” said Mark Eickelbeck, Executive VP,  AVR Homebuilders . “It was important for our company to be proactive in taking the first step to underscore our commitment to the environment.  We carry this same philosophy through to our homes which will be built to meet New YorkState Energy Star standards for energy conservation as well as qualify for the new LEED for Homes certification from the USGreenBuilding Council.”  

 There will be four conservation easements on the Valeria property.  Terms of the main easement, covering approximately 571 acres including the magnificent 43-acre Dickerson Pond, were developed jointly between AVR and the Dickerson Pond Homeowners Association (the Master Association that owns and manages the common facilities of Valeria). AVR is donating this land to the Association so it will be available for the exclusive use of the 227 community homeowners.

Two additional easements will protect nearly 73 more acres closer to the development area, which will become the property of a new homeowners association owning and managing the lands of the 147 new homeowners. Westchester Land Trust’s conservation biologists will work with AVR and the Homeowners Association to create a management plan for the land to ensure that its biodiversity values are protected and enhanced over the long term and WLT will monitor these lands at least once a year. The fourth easement underscores the Town’s commitment to open space preservation as it is placed on approximately 46 acres that are being dedicated to the town to be used for passive recreation.

“I am very pleased and proud to be a part of one of the largest land conservation and preservation projects ever in our County and region.  It is located at Valeria in the Town of Cortlandt.  It will total a preservation of 690 acres and will also protect the environment and ecology of the area,” said Linda Puglisi, the Town of Cortlandt Supervisor.  “I know that the Westchester and CortlandtLand Trusts will be excellent stewards of this land and Cortlandt is delighted to have 46 acres near Sniffen Mountain Road transferred to its Open Space inventory. 
Congratulations to everyone involved in this project, including the Town’s Planning Board and staff, the developer AVR Homebuilders, the Land Trusts and the residents of the Dickerson Pond Homeowner’s Association.”

The easements protect a key swath of New York City’s Croton Watershed, an area identified as part of a critical plant and wildlife habitat, and Dickerson Mountain, one of northwestern Westchester’s highest and most prominent points. The conservation easements means that the land will be permanently protected from development.

 A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a landowner and a not-for-profit organization like the land trust to forever limit development on a piece of property for environmental purposes.

“On behalf of the residents of Dickerson Pond Association, the Board is delighted to accept this property and to partner with the Westchester Land Trust to maintain it as a conservation area,”  said Charles Holt, President of Dickerson Pond Association.  “Working with AVR and WLT, current and future residents of Valeria want to guarantee that we and our Town of Cortlandt neighbors have the value of a vibrant, natural environment in our area.  We thank AVR for working so diligently with Dickerson Pond Association and WLT to make this a reality. A special mention must be made to the Easement Committee members of Dickerson Pond Association for their dedication and hard work, and to the Town of Cortlandt and the Planning Board for their leadership and support. We firmly believe that all residents of the Town benefit by the preservation of open spaces, the protection of wildlife, and the improvement to water quality of the Hudson River and the NYC Watershed.”

The area was highlighted as a “biodiversity hub” in the Croton-to-Highlands Biodiversity study, completed in 2004 by the Wildlife Conservation Society/Metropolitan Conservation Alliance. Bobcats, loons, beaver, box turtles and musk turtles, among many other species, can all be found on the property. Equally important is the property’s connection or proximity to other protected open space in the area, including New York City watershed lands, and Westchester County’s Blue Mountain Reservation and Briarcliff-Peekskill Trailway.  Almost half the property drains into the Croton Reservoir, and the remainder feeds Furnace Brook and eventually the Hudson River.

“This project is a landmark achievement and shows the great things that can be accomplished when partners work together in cooperation,” said Paul Gallay, WestchesterLand Trust’s executive director. “It is also a dramatic example of our commitment to land protection throughout WestchesterCounty. We are proud to be working more actively in Cortlandt, thanks to our partnership with Supervisor Linda Puglisi and the town residents who banded together several years ago to form our CortlandtLand Trust chapter."

“This is a great accomplishment for the Town, the Developer and the Homeowners Association, and we’re proud to be a part of it,” said Lisa Moir, chair of the CortlandtLand Trust. “We intend to continue working with as many volunteers as possible to make sure that the success at Valeria becomes a model for land preservation in Cortlandt.”

The Valeria easement brings the total number of acres protected by Westchester Land Trust to almost 5,900 (more than 2,500 of which were protected in partnership with local towns, Westchester County, New York State, New York City, other land preservation organizations, and private donors). The Land Trust has set a goal of protecting 10,000 total acres by 2011.

Philanthropically built in the 1920’s as a country weekend resort for New York residents looking for rest, relaxation, and recreation.  Valeria is now being further expanded to reflect and maintain the property’s original personality – offering grand estate style living in a maintenance-free community setting. On this 750-acre majestic property, homeowners can choose from six different model-types, with picturesque views of either conservation land or with views of the 43-acre lake, Dickerson Pond. Valeria will house many existing and new on-site recreational facilities and amenities including a 5 hole pitch and putt golf course, boating, fishing, nature trails, 3 clubhouses incorporating a Grand Ballroom, 2 fitness centers, a movie theater, along with 2 pools, an outdoor hot-tub, 8 tennis courts, a shuttle bus to and from the train station, children’s playground and more. Its proximity to New York City makes the community even more valuable, combining the most attractive features of both city and suburbia. For more information: (914) 737-4777 orwww.valerialuxuryliving.com .


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