Nemith cries foul on former Planning Board Chairman

A Colonie car dealer is crying foul after hearing about the relationship between former Planning Board Chairman C.J. O'Rourke and a local developer.

Nathaniel Bette, son of Kevin Bette, president of First Columbia, hired O'Rourke for general contracting work on a home in Loudonville worth over $1 million, raising Mark Nemith's suspicion, he said.

I always felt there was a conflict of interest or something very much out of the realm of what would be proper because of the way certain things occurred, Nemith said. "It does answer, at least in my mind, an awful lot of questions about things that happen when you compare now and look at the timelines of both Mr. Bette's approvals and ours."

Nemith has a contractual agreement with Wal-Mart, allowing them to build a supercenter on lots 2, 4 and 6, where a former Nemith Volvo car dealership was located. The site plan for the proposal was submitted in 2007, followed by more than a year of traffic mitigation studies. In September, the planning board shot down the conceptual plan after O'Rourke raised concerns about some of the waivers requested by Wal-Mart, such as the positioning of the front of the building not facing the Northway, the utilization of the setback and the extended width of the parking stalls.

A month later, First Columbia sought approval of its concept plan to build three new office buildings, totaling 335,000 square feet, on Plaza Drive. Only one board member, Mike Sullivan, was opposed to it. O'Rourke was absent from that meeting.

Nemith's attorney, Clemente Parente, said that after going to all of the planning board meetings and reading through the transcripts, the situation is "very hard to swallow."

At the First Columbia conceptual plan decision, Parente asked that that company be treated the same way as Wal-Mart was. Sullivan also asked that everyone be treated fairly, and noted his concerns regarding the size of the waiver for First Columbia to reduce its number of parking spaces, and what sort of precedent it was setting.

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