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Public glimpses downtown vision

"The more residential use, the more it costs the town," said Ian Law from Riverstreet. "With residential properties, for every $1 contributed by the owner, it costs the town $1.42. With commercial sites, they need fewer services, so for each $1 contributed, it costs the town 10 cents. This is why towns welcome new business development, to help shift the tax burden."

Based on meetings with residents, the list of what people would like to see come to Malta include coffee shops and cafes; stores to buy books, clothing and sporting goods to prevent people spending their money elsewhere; a YMCA or other museum or cultural center; a downtown amphitheater; a pond for ice skating; and possibly an elementary school.

"Schools provide a major hub for a downtown and create all kinds of recreational and gathering opportunities," said Irwin.

With three major developments set geographically apart, including the already-approved Ellsworth Commons and Park Place, and the pending Kelch Drive project, all with housing, retail, commercial and professional space, the word "connectivity" quickly rose to the surface of discussions.

"Individually, they may meet the town's vision for walkability, for mixed use, for retail, but how do they work together?" said Irwin. "They need to work as a complete package. Adding dead-end development is really just a different type of sprawl. Three nodes of mixed-use development do not make a downtown. In our opinion, this downtown is far too big; there is isolation in the proposed developments."

Audience members expressed concern about the projects, particularly Ellsworth Commons, which includes buildings several stories high.

"The planning board approved Ellsworth, and we can't rescind that approval," said Malta town Planner Anthony Tozzi.

Other residents said they worry about development along Route 9 causing safety problems, both for cars attempting to drive north and for people using the sidewalks proposed to connect downtown areas.

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