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NISKAYUNA: Board to weigh further study

Faced with casting a vote that could decide the future of the historic Ingersoll Home, a key town board member in Niskayuna is still weighing his options. The comments by Town Supervisor Luke Smith come as the five-member board prepares for a meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 27, at which they are expected to decide whether developers will have to provide a detailed environmental impact study before a vote is taken on the shopping mall proposed for the site.

The strip mall proposed by Highland Development LLC has been the center of controversy for months with critics lambasting the project that would be located directly across the street from Mohawk Commons as an unnecessary addition to the community. In response, Smith and other town officials have noted that the 12.5-acre parcel, most of which is currently vacant green space, has long been properly zoned for retail development.

Under the proposal sub-mitted by developers, a portion of the historic Ingersoll Home would be torn down but the original structure would be kept intact. Much of the current lot would then be turned into retail space and parking to accommodate customer needs. The dozens of senior citizens who currently live in the home would be relocated to a structure now being built on Consaul Road. Before the new stores can be built, the town board must support the project by approving a special use permit for it. Developers can't proceed without the permit.

I have an open mind on this, and I haven't decided whether to support a special use permit or not for this project, Smith said by phone. "I know some people are trying to say that I have made up my mind on this, but they are wrong."

For months, opponents of further development in Niskayuna have focused their energies on blocking the strip mall proposal. They have combined a barrage of e-mails with weekend protests at the site, a letter-writing campaign, and frequent appearances at town board meetings.

Moving to address the concerns of critics, developers have modified their plans several times. One earlier version of the proposal included moving the Ingersoll Home to a remote section of the parcel to avoid impeding the flow of traffic coming in from the intersection of State Street and Balltown Road. After preservationists expressed concern that the home could be destroyed in the process of moving it, attorneys for Highland Development LLC dropped that aspect of their proposal. The developers have also hired a team of archeologists to gather information on the historic structure. ""

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