By Paul Post
A Spa City builder hopes to break ground late this summer on the first of 31 custom homes, priced at $1 million and up, on the east side of Saratoga Lake.
Witt Construction owner John Witt says Phyllian’s Bluff, a 111-acre conservation subdivision with a unique agriculture component, will “be the nicest project in the county by keeping the rural character of the town of Saratoga’s farmland.”
He said more than 61 acres will be kept as green space in perpetuity, with no new buildings allowed. Nearby Old Tavern Farm will use most of this to expand its thoroughbred breeding operation in addition to planting a new vineyard to go along with its existing cut flower business.
“We have 2,000 vines on order that will be planted in May and will grow our winery operations to meet the capacity of the additional vines,” said Nicole Borisenok, Old Tavern Farm Winery owner. “This site is also home to our 24,000 cut flowers that we plant each season to supply local farmers markets and businesses in our community. By the time we are done, it will be a beautiful farm and agricultural site.”
The property was previously home to a farm and been vacant for about 80 years, Witt said. There is an old farmhouse and historic barn on site, surrounded by fields of rye and flowers. So Witt and Old Tavern together are in effect bringing an old farm back to life.
“The vineyard will be a visitor’s dream and an asset to our local economy, bolstering agritourism and as another amenity for residents,” Witt said.
Several different varieties of New York grapes will be grown, and the vineyard is expected to create a number of new farm-based jobs.
Homes will be constructed on roughly one-and-a-half-acre lots, with each lot having its own individual site plan that contains storm water run-off. The development will connect to the county sewer system on Route 9P. Each home will have its own well water.
The first homes should be completed by late summer or early fall 2024 and the entire project will likely take five years to build out, Witt said.
The site overlooks the northeast part of Saratoga Lake in the vicinity of Cedar Bluff, Trombley and Wright Roads. Two new roads will also be built, with two cul de sacs within the subdivision.
“What’s nice about this is that every home will be different, but designed to fit in with the environment,” Witt said. “When you drive by you aren’t going to see houses, which are all tucked in. You’re just going to see the farm.”
“They’re all going to be custom homes so the size is really up to the clientele, but I anticipate that most will be about 2,000 square feet,” he said.
Some lots will have sunset views, and some will overlook the farm.
Witt said prospective clients include both retirees who want to build seasonal summer homes, and families that want to move to the Saratoga area.
Witt already owned three of the 111 acres, purchased 103 acres from Bethesda Church of Saratoga Springs, and has a purchase agreement for five adjacent acres.
He plans to build a new home of his own in the subdivision.
“Phyllian’s Bluff is going to be a phenomenal landscape, which we’re going to beautify and protect as a thriving, healthy environment featuring custom homes,” he said.
The Town of Saratoga Planning Board gave the project preliminary approval in January. Witt said he expects all finals approvals from various agencies including the state Health Department to be secured shortly.
As part of the process, a study of the site’s archaeological significance, possibly relating the presence of Indigenous Peoples, was conducted.
The town’s approval involved several specific provisions such as:
• No tree removal permitted on building lots during road construction.
• All work that involves pruning, thinning or felling of trees must be supervised by a certified state forester or arborist and submitted to the town for approval prior to work being done.
Witt said he plans to plant fruit-bearing trees in places where the land is overgrown with scrub plants. To prevent erosion, all material from forestry activity on steep slopes, such as felled trees and brush, will be left in place vertical to the slope.
Only limited crown pruning of trees will be allowed over a 10-year period.