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NISKAYUNA: Board to vote Tuesday

After months of battling over the fate of the Ingersoll Home, town officials are poised to decide whether they will require a full-blown environmental impact study (EIS) before developers can put a shopping mall on the property. A vote on the issue is slated for Tuesday night's town board meeting, and advocates on both sides are declining to comment on whether they have the necessary support.

On Tuesday, March 6, town board members hedged their bets by leaving the door open to act on two different resolutions next week. One would require developers to conduct a complete EIS before they could get a special use permit to build the proposed shopping mall. The other would skip that step by declaring that the project would not have a significant impact on the environment.

I think it's too early to say how the vote will go on this, town board member Bill Chapman said after last week's meeting. "Members of the board are still getting comments from members of the public, with letters, phone call and e-mails still coming in. I am sure we will also hear members of the public during the 'Privilege of the Floor' portion of the meeting next week.

"The board is taking this very seriously and I'm not prepared to predict which way it will go," said Chapman.

Requiring a full environmental study could mean months of additional work for Highland Development LLC, the company seeking to build a shopping mall on the 12.5-acre wooded parcel situated at the corner of State Street and Balltown Road. But critics have said a formal EIS would require developers to spell out how they would address concerns about the project ranging from the impact on traffic to the aesthetic impact on local residents.

Each side in the contentious battle has indicated that a lawsuit is possible if they don't get their way, with attorneys for the development company noting that the property has been commercially zoned for decades. The critics, led by Niskayuna's former town historian, Linda Champagne, have responded by calling the two-century-old home a "unique historic resource" that includes several wooded acres of "essential greenspace."

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