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Lawmakers add acres to farmland protection

Orleans County legislators Wednesday approved a revised agriculture district including the towns of Albion, Murray, Gaines and Ridgeway.

County officials said 500 acres were added to the estimated 29,919-acre district to protect farmland. The plan was approved without opposition or debate.

Balancing rural character with economic development is a major issue in the county as WNY Energy LLC, based in Livingston County, has proposed a nearly $86 million plant for producing ethanol fuel on 144 acres on Bates Road in the Town of Shelby. Three parcels of undisclosed size for the plant have also been proposed in the Town of Ridgeway.

The ethanol site plan still needs approval by county and Shelby leaders.

"We had a lot of cooperation with the [county] Farmland Protection Board to make sure whoever was in is in [the district]," said Deb Roberts, executive director of the Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension.

The state requires that agriculture districts have at least 50 percent of the acreage for agricultural use only. Orleans officials said more than 75 percent of the land in this area is solely for agriculture use.

The plan has been approved by the county's Farmland Protection Board and the county Planning Board.

The district is next up for review in April 2014.

Also, the Legislature approved a three-year contract ending in 2008 with the Orleans County Deputy Sheriff's Association. The union represents 24 deputies who work on road patrol. They will receive 3 percent pay increases for each year of the contract.

The agreement also calls for a shift from multiple insurance providers for the deputies to a single provider -- BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York.

The deal was ratified by union members.

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