McKownville Improvement Association
McKownville Water District property - easements to Stuyvesant Plaza

The McKownville water supply until 1973 came from the dammed reservoir on the west branch of the Krum Kill, since 1959 sandwiched between Western Avenue and Stuyvesant Plaza. This pond originally was made by William McKown in the early 1800's to supply his hostelry and stockyards at the intersection of Fuller Road and Western Avenue. William H Witbeck bought the McKown Hotel Farm property in 1907, and sold most of it in 1912 to a partnership of his son Benjamin F Witbeck and Arthur F Pitkin. This partnership, later becoming the Pitkin-Witbeck Realty Company, used the reservoir as the minimally treated water supply for their subdivision "Country Club Highlands" east of Fuller Road on the north side of Western Avenue. In 1948, after resident petition, the town established the McKownville Water District, which purchased the reservoir and a small amount of surrounding land, and significantly improved the treatment of the water and the distribution piping to residences.
Stuyvesant Plaza and McKownville reservoir 1960 airphoto
Airphoto view taken in 1960 looking west over Stuyvesant Plaza, Western Avenue, the NY Thruway and part of Westmere beyond. The McKownville reservoir is seen on the left between the Plaza and buildings on the northern side of Western Avenue. Part of the pond known as Harrington's ice pond, or Church Pond, can be seen just beyond the Thruway in the center of the picture.

Development of the Stuyvesant Plaza shopping center was proposed in 1955 and completed in 1959. In that year a perpetual easement was granted to the Plaza of a strip of land at the southeastern end of the Water District property for access to the shopping center from Western Avenue. The entrance and exit built then on this easement remains the main access to the Plaza.

Other easements of the Water District property adjacent to the northern side of the reservoir were made subsequently by the Town of Guilderland, acting on behalf of the McKownville Water District, to Stuyvesant Plaza. These were made for access, employee/store owner parking, for placing trash dumpsters, and have been used for maintenance equipment parking and storage. An easement on the southern side was made to permit installation of underground electrical utilities. Since the reservoir ceased to be used as a water source in 1973, and especially since its conversion to a usually empty retention pond in 2010, there has been no great disincentive to granting these easements from consideration of the potential pollution that might enter the watershed from them (nor more generally in the watershed upstream, particularly from the Crossgates Mall and its surroundings).

Property purchased for the McKownville Water District
Deed of sale April 1, 1949 from Pitkin Witbeck Realty Co to McKownville Water District; Book 1160 pages 193-196
Parcel 1: ~9.51 acres including the main reservoir pond; Parcel 2: ~0.34 acres, a non-contiguous rectangular lot
Deed of sale April 17, 1961 from McKown Farm Realty Co to McKownville Water District; Book 1683, pages 387-390
Two small separate lots adjoining the north and south sides of Parcel 2 of the 1949 purchase

List of easements from McKownville Water District to Stuyvesant Plaza Inc
February 19, 1959 - Book 1604, pages 544-546  [a more legible copy of the agreement, and containing a sketch map]
A strip 50 feet wide (~0.25 acres) at the southeastern end of Parcel 1 of 1949 purchase; for access to the Plaza from and to Western Avenue. A payment of $5500 was made for this easement.
also in:                   - Book 1891, pages 491 and 499
                               - Book 1910, page 535
1968 - Both Fred Abele (Altamont Enterprise article 15 August 1980) and John Esler (letter to Altamont enterprise editor December 1972) record an easement of 2.1 acres made in 1968; Esler remarks that on his request in 1972 the Town could not find a copy of this document. Later engineering maps of the Plaza and the Reservoir Park make no identifiable reference to such a document. Possibly this became, slightly reduced, the December 11, 1970 easement.
December 11, 1970 - Book 2313, pages 294-295 (a map is referenced but is not included in this copy)
Two parcels, one about 0.47 acres, the other about 1.05 acres, respectively from the northern part, and the western part of Parcel 1 of the 1949 purchase for vehicle parking, including installation of pavement, and for facilities and piping for surface water drainage.
June 19, 2007 - Book 2888, pages 70-71
A strip 30 feet wide on the southern side of Parcel 1 of 1949 purchase, for underground electrical utilities.
November 4, 2009 - Book 2963, pages 1064-1070 (this file contains a map)
A parcel (about 0.51 acres) along the northern side of Parcel 1 of the 1949 purchase, for access, parking, and trash storage/handling.
Parking in this easement is available to the public visiting the McKownville Reservoir Park.
Larger maps made in 2009 which show the easement proposed, and more details of the parking area

        Water District property and Reservoir Park
Map showing the original extent of parcel 1 of the 1949 sale to the Water District, the easements that have eaten into it, the park outline, and the areas of which sales were attempted [map as printable pdf page].

Attempts to sell McKownville Water District property to Stuyvesant Plaza Inc
Two attempts by the Town to sell land of the McKownville Water District outright to Stuyvesant Plaza were marked by controversy.

The first of these occurred in 1962, over a narrow triangular piece of 1.5 acres along the northeastern side of the main parcel for which Stuyvesant Plaza offered $10,000, the purpose being to accommodate an expansion of the plaza for new stores. A public hearing on May 15 set out the proposal to residents. At the Town Board meeting on June 5, the Town Board agreed to submit a permissive referendum to Water District voters; at this meeting claims were made that a proper value would be in the range $25,000 to $50,000. The easement of 1958, where $5500 was paid for just an easement over 0.25 acres, seems fairly clear evidence of a significant undervaluation. The McKownville Improvement Association initially submitted a letter to the town board supporting this sale, but reconsidered this support and submitted another letter with reservations in it after there was a modification (addition) to the plot to be sold. Another public hearing was held December 17. The attempted sale was unsuccessful; a permissive referendum of Water District voters failed to pass.
The other attempt was made in 1972, with sale of 0.6 acres of the northwest corner of the main parcel offered for $2500, for a proposed movie theater. Residents objected vigorously, again pointing to the astonishing undervaluation of the offer price, and the requirement to have a public hearing and vote by Water District homeowners. They also objected to the claim by the Town to have ownership of McKownville Water District property. A hearing by the DEC was called in February 1973. There seems to be no record published in the Altamont Enterprise about the outcome of this hearing, but the sale did not occur. Fred Abele recounted later that the McKownville Improvement Association determined that the land was worth five times the price offered and threatened a lawsuit over this issue. McKownville residents were successful in causing the abandonment of this transaction.

Other easements
1969 - easement to Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation - 0.42 acres
1973 - easement to Guilderland Sewer District - 30 ft wide right of way across the Krum Kill to Stuyvesant Plaza

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