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Open Space Protection Project Team

Volunteer Team (Formerly the Conservation Easement Team)


Landowner Resources | Funding Programs |


This group's purpose is to help the town protect lands with valuable natural and cultural resources. They do this by providing guidance to the Town Board on decisions relating to land purchases, conservation easements, partnerships with local land trusts, open space protection grants, and more.

The Open Space Protection Project Team has been in existence since 2015, focusing on multiple land conservation and open space protection projects since its inception. Below are current and past initiatives. At right (or below on a smartphone) is a list of members. If you would like more informaton or are interested in becoming a member of the project team, please email the chair. 


The Open Space Protection Project Team* meets monthly on the third Friday at 10 am in the Town Hall Oriana Conference Room and also via Zoom. All are welcome to attend. No RSVP needed. 

Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 862 2744 9434
Passcode: 993569

*formerly called the Conservation Easement Team, the group covers all aspects of the preservation of open spaces in the Town so the name change reflects that.  

2023 Focus and Goals

At two strategic planning meetings of the Town Board in January and March 2023, the Town Board identified watershed and water quality protection as a priority for the Town and that the Open Space Team (formerly Conservation Easment Team) would play a role in making recommendations and assisting the Town Board with targeted projects.

The Team's own focus is providing landowners with information on how to protect their lands within the watershed from unwanted development in the future via print and digital flyers and brochures. 

2022 Focus and Goals

In a strategic planning session in the Fall of 2021, involving all boards, committees, and project teams of the Town, several priorities were established for the Town to focus on in 2022. Of the five priorities, three are important for this team and they are as follows:

Encourage continued agricultural use of viable farmland and discourage development of those parcels by directing developers to more appropriate locations within the Town such as the three identified growth nodes

Permanently protect lands with natural resource significance and support recreation on protected lands

Promote housing and development growth within identified growth nodes and discourage development in environmentally sensitive areas (revise ordinances as needed to achieve this goal)

2020-2021 Focus and Goals

2020 goal was to re-evaluate and restructure the Town's conservation subdivision language in the Town Code to improve the regulation's ability to protect natural resources while allowing for sound and sustainable development in the Town. This was accomplished with the help of LaBella Associates, the same firm that helped the Town to prepare the Open Space, Conservation, and Scenic Views Master Plan in 2018 and also the Natural Resources Inventory Update in 2020. The recently adopted Conservatoin Subdivision revisions were incorporated into the Town Code in August 2021 and can be viewed here: Chapter 174-16 Conservation Subdivision.   

2015 Focus and Goals

The initial purpose of the team was to research ways to fulfill Goal 7 of the 2003 Comprehensive Plan:

Goal 7: Conserve and maintain the land that provides critical open space and scenic resources.
– Step 1: “research conservation programs for tax abatements or incentives available to landowners.”


Findings from 2015 Goal

The Conservation Easement Team, along with the CIC, made the following recommendations to the Town Board:


  1. The CIC would like to request that the Town Board authorize a public outreach meeting in conjunction with Finger Lakes Land Trust to share information about the opportunity for voluntary conservation programs. The CIC would recommend that property owners with at least 30 acres be contacted via mail, information about the meeting be posted on the Town website, and via Mail Chimp. The CIC would also recommend the ECB take the lead on working with the Finger Lakes Land Trust to identify willing property owners to explore voluntary conservation easement programs.
  2. The CIC would like to recommend the Town Board consider code updates that encourage and enhance conservation of lands to protect and enhance biological diversity, protection of steep slopes, and protection of ridgelines, offering buffers on riparian areas, and logging. Many of these items are currently being considered by the NRI Team, and the CIC would like to recommend the Town Board encourage the NRI Team to consider these items for codification as the NRI Team continues their work.
  3. The CIC would like to recommend the Town Board consider opportunities for voluntary restrictive covenants through the Planning Board process. The CIC would recommend the Planning Board take the lead on exploring opportunities for options to utilize open space and conservation areas as a means to promote natural buffers to development. These opportunities could be achieved through the Planning Board’s traditional subdivision review and consideration, and serve as a means to promote open space.


  1. The CIC would like to recommend the Town Board look into opportunities where a right of first refusal tool might be able to be used for landowners who wish to have their property entered into a conservation easement program.
  2. The CIC would like to recommend the Town Board continue to partner with Finger Lakes Land Trust and other local groups; as well as, the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets on agriculture protection through the Farmland Protection Implementation Grant Program (PDR).


  1. The CIC would like to recommend the Town Board consider as a longer term option the possibility of a transfer of development rights (TDR) program. Due to the level of development occurring in the Town of Canandaigua, a tool like a TDR program could be utilized to conserve open space in designated areas of the Town, while trading credits for greater density in other portions.
  2. The CIC would like to recommend the Town Board consider the outright purchase of land as it pertains to valued open space protection lands. The purchase of these parcels could be acquired through the Open Space Fund.
  3. The CIC would like to recommend the Town Board further look into the legal options that may exist to create special districts by petition for landowners who wish to voluntarily enter into a conservation district. These conservation districts would be created by a petition of Town residents to the Town Board. Property owners who wish to voluntarily enter the conservation district could be assessed a fee on their property tax bill to assist with the administration of the conservation district.


  1. The CIC would like to recommend the Town Board consider a new fee for new construction in order to fund the Open Space reserve. The CIC fully understands the legality of such a fee, and the funding of the open space reserve would have to be explored. Due to the level of new development occurring in the Town of Canandaigua, the amount of open space is steadily declining. A fee linked to new development to further protect open space should be considered.
  2. The CIC would like to recommend the Town Board consider an annual appropriation from the unexpended fund balance to the Open Space Fund each year. An example the Town Board may wish to consider would be an annual appropriation of $ 100,000 from unexpended fund balance. 
  3. The CIC would like to recommend the Town Board explore what other municipalities have done to create and maintain a conservation fund such as Tompkins County.


Project Team Members

Sarah Reynolds, Chairperson, Town Planner

Shannon Chevier, Zoning Board of Appeals

Edith Davey, Environmental Conservation Board, Tree Team

Eric Obenauer, Environmental Conservation Board, Tree Team

Karen Parkhurst, Affordable Housing Project Team, Parks Committee

Tom Schwartz, CIC/former PB, Affordable Housing Project Team

Max Heitner, FLLT (serves in an advisory capacity)

Maps / Resources

Strategic Forest Protection Area Map

Strategic Farmland Protection Area & Protected Farms Map

Lands of Conservation Value Parcel Rating Map

Natural Resources Parcel Rating Map

Agricultural Soils Parcel Rating Map

Scenic Viewsheds Map

Wildlife Corridors Map

Water Resources Map


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