January 2, 2019

A Piece of Agricultural Past Will Live On in Montgomery

PRESERVING RURAL HISTORY: Thanks to a recent agreement, the Matthews Farm on Route 206 in Montgomery Township will be preserved in perpetuity as open space.

By Anne Levin

In a $1.43 million deal that will preserve a rural landmark, the Montgomery Township Committee voted December 20 to purchase the development rights to the Matthews Farm on Route 206, south of Harlingen Road at Rutland Road. The agreement means that land that would have likely been developed will now remain much as it has been for years.

“This has been in the works for about a decade or close to a decade,” Montgomery  Mayor Christine Madrid said this week. “The timing just wasn’t right, but now we have come to an agreement. The farm is right on 206, so everybody sees it coming or going through Montgomery. It’s a place everyone knows Montgomery by.”

The agreement preserves approximately 7.5 acres for the 9.3-acre, commercially-zoned property. The Township also negotiated a “viewshed” easement, which will prohibit any structures within 175 feet of Route 206. Also in the agreement is a restriction on the exterior of the barns for the next decade, or the lifetime of property owners Don and Pat Matthews.

According to a release from Montgomery Township, the property was purchased in 1952 by Don Matthews’ parents, and was a working dairy farm for many years. The farm has been the site of public events, including the Van Harlingen Historical Society’s “May in Montgomery.”

“Now in their older years, the owners take great pride in maintaining the barns and other farm buildings, and just keep a few horses and cows around for their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren,” the release reads. “Chester the horse is a popular attraction for the neighborhood kids.”

Township Committeeman Ed Trzaska said in the release, “I am thrilled to finally get this iconic farm preserved. It has been on the top of our open space wish list for over a decade. Having this land and barn on the main street in town embodies our rural character and helps set Montgomery apart from other communities. Since this land is commercially zoned, it likely would have been developed for the future. Thanks to the hard work of many people, this protected viewshed will instead be enjoyed for generations to come.”

Madrid said that Don Matthews spoke at the December 20 meeting where the vote was taken by the Township Committee. “He said it was the only home they have lived in together, and they didn’t want to see it developed,” she said. “They raised their children there. They wanted it to always be a farm.”

Don and Pat Matthews will continue to own and maintain the farm as part of the agreement. The property is directly across the road from more than 160 acres of preserved open space on the west side of Route 206, known as the former Runyon and Beekman farms. “We’ve preserved about 38 percent of Montgomery overall, so there is a lot we are working on,” said Madrid. “We want people to be able to enjoy green space and the rural character of the area.”