Public glimpses downtown vision

If you could gaze into a crystal ball, what would downtown Malta look like in 20 years?

About 60 people turned out Monday, Dec. 10, to view some possible future snapshots presented by specialists commissioned by the town's planning department. Malta received a $50,000 grant and kicked in an additional $12,500 to hire the consultants to scrutinize every angle of future downtown build-out.

Monday night's program was run by planners from Synthesis Architecture in Schenectady and Riverstreet Planning in Troy, who completed the Downtown Green Space and Economic Development Plan.

The plan contained three primary components: identifying where green space should be located within the downtown area; establishing an economic development plan to assist developers to understand what amenities the town has to offer and what types of businesses the town would like to attract; and giving more attention to the Parade Ground Historic District and the possibility of developing a niche market.

The springboard for the plan comes from recently adopted town legislation, including the comprehensive master plan and the downtown architectural design standards.

Monday night wasn't the first night for public input: The consultants met with many Malta residents during earlier presentations, workshops and scoping sessions.

During their one-hour presentation, followed by an hour of questions and comments from the public, consultants said with the possibility of a future Tech Valley looming, it's not a question of whether or not businesses will come to town, but instead, how the town will handle it.

Development pressure is going to continue, whether you like it or not, and future land use must be based on an economic perspective as well as visual impact, said Margaret Irwin of Riverstreet Planning. "You have a big bull's-eye painted on your back here as a target for developers."

Residential development may seem to be a way to maintain the rural character of the town, but the planners urged people to keep in mind commercial development will bring a bigger payback to Malta.

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