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A place for peace or play?

Opponents of proposed sports complex say it would destroy serenity of the adjacent cemetery

Memory Gardens sits on a ridge that is one of the highest points in the town of Colonie and is the final resting place of approximately 36,000 people. The tree line separates the cemetery from the proposed sports complex.

Memory Gardens sits on a ridge that is one of the highest points in the town of Colonie and is the final resting place of approximately 36,000 people. The tree line separates the cemetery from the proposed sports complex. Photo by Billy DeLap.

A local developer is hoping to build a sports complex next to Memory Gardens, a memorial park on Watervliet-Shaker Road, but opponents say such a move would destroy the serenity of the place.

A similar dome in Bethlehem

Afrim Sports is scheduled to go before the Bethlehem Planning Board on Tuesday, Nov. 19, in an effort to obtain a use variance for a similar dome project in partnership with the Bethlehem Soccer Club at their property on Wemple Road. Some neighbors are also opposed to this project, citing a loss of property value and that the structure will obstruct their views of nature. Read more about this in past stories posted at spotlightnews.com.

Much of the outcry from the public and Memory Gardens’ board of directors stems from concerns that cheering crowd noise could interrupt a funeral service or a solemn moment as someone is paying respects to a loved one.

Afrim Nezaj, the owner of Afrim Sports, Inc. who is seeking a variance from the Colonie zoning board to allow him to build the multi-use sports complex, said those concerns are misplaced.

Nezaj compared the worries of the board of directors to those of a child who thinks there is a monster under the bed.

“All the things they think are in the closet or under the bed aren’t really there,” Nezaj said, adding that he thinks Memory Gardens is beautiful place, and he would most likely be buried there. “I respect what they do; they should respect what I do.”

Opposed to Nezaj’s plans for a sports complex is Latham resident Zelda Golden, 83, who purchased four plots at Memory Gardens in 1950. Her husband is buried in one of them.

“I think it would be too boisterous next to a place of dignity and respect. I could see myself at a funeral service and hear cheers go up; it just makes me go cold,” said Golden.

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