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Some History

In the Spring 2020, Seakill Builders purchased approximately 64 acres on Lower Sahler Mill Road from the Iverson family, longtime farmers and residents of Olive. The land had been a family farm with a number of outbuildings, but had been unused for many years.  Seakill purchased the land with the intention of constructing a 14 lot major subdivision, with 7 houses on each side of the road, facing each other piano key style. Many acres were clear cut to open up views,  and two homes were erected before the OPB approved the subdivision.

At around the same time in spring/summer of 2020, Seakill Builders, working with architect Frank Dunn, presented a proposal for the major subdivision to the Olive Planning Board, and constructed two homes next to each other.


Community members became aware of the proposed major subdivision early in the process and began organizing to better understand the proposal and its potential impact on the land, the flora and fauna, the surrounding DEC protected conservation areas of the Great Pacama Vly (listed as extremely important in the Olive Natural Resource Inventory) and Rochester Creek— both of which abut this property—, the increased density in this very rural community, the traffic and pedestrian safety on the narrow roads, and overall quality of life and community character. The more we learned, the more we became concerned that the proposed major subdivision could have a serious negative impact.

The community took a number of steps including: reaching out to all the neighbors in the immediate and surrounding vicinity; circulated a petition asking people to express their concerns about the major subdivision  (over 170 people signed); began attending each meeting of the Olive Planning Board to educate ourselves about the laws and regulations governing such a proposal; and, designed and distributed to neighbors “Keep Olive Rural” signs and a website,

A core group of nearly 20 neighbors met regularly to discuss and plan next steps, involving the larger community at each step. We are lucky that many in our community have expertise in land use and conservation, as well as organizing and advocacy! We hired a lawyer, Emily Svenson,  to represent the community, to help us understand SEQRA and  to submit letters to the Olive Planning Board (OPB) on behalf of the community urging a positive declaration to better assess the widespread impact of a major subdivision, which she submitted to the OPB. We hired a planner, Ted Fink, to evaluate the specific potential impacts on the environment . And community character, which he submitted to the OPB. And a neighbor, Christina Falk, of Water Action Compliance, submitted a letter addressing the irreversible long term environmental impacts of such a development.  In addition, over 100 community members filed written comments to the OPB opposing the major subdivision, and/or urging the OPB to issue a Positive Declaration and undertake a comprehensive assessment of the impact on the community.

At the first OPB public hearing, which was held on Zoom, dozens of community members signed up to speak in opposition, touching on the full range of potential adverse impacts on the SEQRA checklist.  The basic request from each community member was for the OPB to issue a positive SEQRA declaration so that the potential impacts could be studied in greater depth. Due to the outpouring of public participation, the OPB had to schedule a 2ndpublic hearing.  Despite the compelling evidentiary record the Sahler Mill Neighbors group compiled, the OPB issued a negative declaration this past summer, 2021.

A small group of Sahler Mill neighbors filed an Article 78 petition challenging the negative declaration as arbitrary, capricious, and biased. 


Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Seakill Builders approached a community member with the offer to sell a significant portion of the wooded, undisturbed land (28.35 acres) that abuts the DEC protected Pacama Vly on one side of Lower Sahler Mill Road, and the Rochester creek on the other side of the road. Conservation easements already run with the 28.35 acres. Thirteen residents contributed to the purchase price set by Seakill of $800,000 with neighbors contributing what they could, ranging from $5,000 to $400,000.

As part of the purchase agreement the neighbors entered into with Seakill Builders, Seakill is only able to build a maximum of 6 homes on the remaining acres (that is 4 more homes given two are already constructed), with 3 homes on each side of the road, with a ban on detached accessory apartments. 


The Olive Planning Board held a public hearing on the proposed revised subdivision on December 7, 2021. The OPB approved the revised subdivision and purchase of the 28.35 acres to be held “forever wild.” A final public hearing was held January 4, 2022. 


As part of our agreement with Seakill Builders, the Article 78 lawsuit was dropped by the community litigants, and a closing on the 28.35 acres took place in April 2022.


We formed Pacama: A Conservation Collaborative, Inc. as a non-profit organization to hold this land as “forever wild” for the benefit of the larger community, and the environment, which so desperately needs protection.

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