ITHACA, N.Y. — For some folks, the news comes as some relief. New York State Electric & Gas (NYSEG) and the Finger Lakes Land Trust (FLLT) have come to an acquisition agreement on the “Bell Station” property in the town of Lansing. The property is now under contract.

Described by the FLTT as the largest privately-owned shoreline parcel in the Finger Lakes, the “Bell Station” property includes about 470 acres of undeveloped land near the county’s northern boundary in the town of Lansing. Among the vast property’s features are limestone lakeside cliffs on 3,454 feet of shoreline, two smaller gorges with waterfalls, and the usual swaths of picturesque countryside one tends to conjure up when describing the Finger Lakes.

The property has long been owned by NYSEG, who initially planned a nuclear power plant on the shores of Cayuga Lake in the 1960s. A planned auction of the property on behalf of NYSEG was called off in late September following bipartisan outcry from locally-elected state lawmakers and the intervention of Governor Hochul’s office.

As informed by the Voice’s eagle-eyed readership, calling this property the “Bell Station” land is something of a misnomer. The Bell Station nuclear plant was actually planned for and started on the land that the Milliken Power Plant is on, and Milliken’s access road goes right past what was the excavated site for Belle Station’s foundation, now a rocky shale pile with overgrowth. Fun fact of the day, folks.

The FLLT plans to preserve the property closer to the lake with only a few low-intensity improvements. It is working with the NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), the Town of Lansing, Tompkins County to create a public conservation area on the lakeshore portion of the parcel. The new conservation area will be transferred to the state and managed by the DEC as a wildlife management area open for recreational uses including hiking, cross country skiing, wildlife watching, hunting, and fishing. Planned improvements are low-intensity in size and scale; a few pedestrian/ski trails and a small pull-off parking area for visitors.

The portion of the “Bell Station” parcel further to the east, which has been rented out to local farmers for a number of years, is being discussed as a potential solar array installation site in conjunction with the town of Lansing, though those plans are conceptual at this time.

The sales price has so far not been disclosed, and will not be publicly available until the sales deed is filed with the Tompkins County Clerk’s Office. However, FLLT still needs donations to make the sale happen; NYSEG is a private company and it isn’t giving these 470 acres away for free.

In a provided statement, the FLLT says it needs to quickly raise $500,000 to complete the purchase and is seeking community donations to help cover the purchase price. Should one feel generous and inclined (or more candidly, if you want to avoid letting this property end up back on the auction block), the donation webpage and FLLT’s full explanation is here. The project is additionally supported by a generous low-interest loan from the Park Foundation.

“The FLLT wishes to thank the Park Foundation for its tremendous support, without which this project would not be possible. We are today launching a public campaign to raise additional funding from the Finger Lakes community and very much look forward to completing the purchase with their help,” said Finger Lakes Land Trust Executive Director Andy Zepp in a provided statement.

The state has concurrently released a statement adding that the “Bell Station” land is recognized as a “priority project in New York State’s Open Space Plan” and recognizes that the land is slated as future public access conservation land in the Town of Lansing Comprehensive Plan. More importantly, the property sale does not require further review or approval by the state’s Public Service Commission, as the state is entering partnership with the FLLT in management and long-term ownership – if the FLLT can raise the funds for initial acquisition, that is.

“The purchase of this land will guarantee its protection and preservation for future generations – making environmentally conscious decisions like this allow us peace of mind knowing our children and their children will have access to green space and a beautiful lakeview in the Finger Lakes,” says the state’s press release, attributing the quote to Governor Hochul. “I am proud of the hard work and collaboration between our state agencies, NYSEG, and the Finger Lakes Land Trust to quickly move ahead with the sale agreement that will pave the way for the transfer of ownership of Bell Station.”

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at bcrandall@ithacavoice.com.