The Westchester Land Trust will receive a more than $1 million state grant that will enable it to buy an environmentally sensitive 63-acre parcel in Armonk to preserve and protect in perpetuity.
The organization, which announced Wednesday having been awarded a state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Water Quality Improvement Project (WQIP) program grant, will acquire the property on Byram Lake Road from current owner Vito Errico for market value. WQIP is a competitive, statewide reimbursement grant program open to local governments and nonprofit organizations for projects that directly address water quality impairment or protect a drinking water source.
Bordered by I-684, Byram Lake Reservoir, the Meyer Preserve and the Butler Memorial Sanctuary, the property is part of a 700-acre corridor of unfragmented land that contains highly varied species of plants and animals as well as high-quality sand and gravel aquifers that produce large volumes of water, Westchester Land Trust President Lori Ensinger told the North Castle Town Board as part of a presentation in November.
North Castle Supervisor Michael Schiliro said Wednesday that the town has eyed this property for conservation for years and is thrilled that the grant was awarded. The Land Trust will receive $1,062,000 while the town is required to pitch in 25 percent of that total.
While Errico had proposed a couple of developments for the property, Schiliro said Errico was also aware that the town was interested in preserving the land and kept that option open.
“It’s just a win-win-win,” Schiliro said. “This has been something that’s been on my to-do list since I got on the board 12 years ago and, quite frankly, it couldn’t happen during the start of the recession. There wasn’t enough money to do it, there wasn’t enough grant (money) to do it. It changed hands several times, and as I said, we’re lucky that Vito Errico purchased it, and he’s used it and maybe had some other plans and designs for it, but then agreed to sell it so we (can) protect it forever.”
The land was identified as a top priority by the North Castle Open Space Committee as early as 2003. The town’s 2007 biodiversity study also discovered a wide array of species on the property.
“The preservation of this property is crucial to prevent further fragmentation of a large forested habitat corridor for development (of) sensitive species, and to protect one of the most fragile groundwater supplies in our community,” Kerri Kazak, chair of the North Castle Open Space Committee, said in a statement.
Councilman Jose Berra said the land is close to important aquifers, and the sale will help protect much of the town’s water supply. About 90 percent of North Castle’s water supply is derived by groundwater through wells.
Sale of the land was contingent on obtaining the grant, Schiliro said. There will now be a process between the Land Trust and Errico to enter into a contract to transfer ownership, he said.
The town and the Land Trust will share management of the property as a nature preserve. It is anticipated that there will be public access to the property, including a hiking trail to be built as soon as possible after the acquisition is completed.
The contract for the sale is expected to be completed sometime later this year.