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DELMAR: Tech park clears hurdle

Developers of the Vista Technology Park cleared a major hurdle on Wednesday, May 9, when the Bethlehem Town Board unanimously accepted the project's 300-page final environmental impact statement.

This is a major milestone for them, said George Leveille, town economic development director.

The park will be located on 450 acres encompassing areas in both New Scotland and Bethlehem just off Route 85, behind Price Chopper. BBL Construction is project coordinator working with both Albany County and the town to develop 150 acres into a technology park over the next 12 years. Vista is expected to eventually employ more than 4,000 people, and generate multi-million dollar tax revenue for the towns and school districts.

"We are right on schedule with this project," said Bethlehem Supervisor Jack Cunningham.

The park will include a mix of both high-tech business and retail development. The board is expected to approve the tech park's state environmental quality review process by the end of the month.

Along with the creation of Vista Park is the construction of the $15.2 million Route 85 Slingerlands Bypass currently under way. The state Department of Transportation began work this spring to reconstruct 1.5 miles of Route 85 to allow for four lanes between Cherry Avenue Extension and Blessing Road. The highway project includes three roundabouts, all designed to ease any traffic congestion when businesses begin to locate in the Vista Park.

Assistant Economic Developer Michael Morelli said the Vista Technology Park is the first post-master plan project in a mixed economic development district. The district calls for an integration of office space, industry, service, small-scale retail and technology-based businesses. Residential uses may be permitted along with business development of the site.

"We feel at this time, this project is ready for town acceptance," Morelli said.

A 10-day minimum waiting period now takes place to allow the public to consider the environmental impact statement. The town board will then hold a public hearing on the Vista Park Master Plan. The planning board will recommend either accepting or rejecting the plan before the town board, as lead agency, signs off on the project.

"If the Vista Park Master Plan is approved, it then moves to the planning board for land use approval and site plan review," said Morelli.

Albany County has already invested $1 million in Vista to offset the cost of hiring engineers and consultants working on the project. The first phase of Vista development is expected to be shovel-ready by the end of 2008.""

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