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Town sends zoning law back to committee

"If this passed, this would render Crossgates a non-conforming use. ... They would be limited in what they could do in the future" said Redlich.

Currently, the town has no cap on the size of regional shopping centers. If the 1 million square foot cap was passed by the board, Crossgates would have to gain town approval for future construction. Redlich said he was concerned legal action would be taken by Crossgates if the law was passed without considering the 1999 decision.

"Either way, a decision would be defendable," said Peter Barber, chairman of the Zoning Board and member of the Zoning Review Committee. "It's your choice."

Runion said the law should keep the mall a conforming use.

"You have to keep it a conforming use [otherwise] it will devalue the mall. It's going to impact their assessment," he said after the meeting.

He said that making Crossgates a non-conforming use would make potential buyers of the mall pay the price for the mall as if it was a 1 million square foot mall, as opposed to its actual size of 1.6 million square feet.

Runion also said he wanted to send the law back to the Zoning Review Committee so its members can consider the effect allowing more mixed-use developments in the town will have on residents' quality of life, something he believes was overlooked by many in drafting and considering the law.

"I envision that the mixed-use provision could create a second round of intensive development on Western Avenue that I don't think we all anticipate," he said.

The law, as proposed, would allow mixed-use developments to have up to three residences in addition to a business located in a single property. Ken Brownell, chairman of the Zoning Review Committee, said the provision in the law encourages development such as Glassworks Village, a mixed-use development that gain town approval in December, and is set to be built in the area of Western Avenue and Winding Brook Drive.

"I don't think that was the intent of the comprehensive plan or smart growth issues discussed by the state," said Runion.

He said that allowing three apartments to be built on top of a business will add students to the school district without adding significantly to the property's assessed value, creating a strain on the school district.

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