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Sports complex plan sparks debate

Zoning board hears public input, delays decision until January

Colonie residents voiced their opinions on a proposed sports complex next to Memory Gardens at a Thursday, Nov. 12, planning board meeting.

Colonie residents voiced their opinions on a proposed sports complex next to Memory Gardens at a Thursday, Nov. 12, planning board meeting. Photo by Billy DeLap.

After three hours of deliberation, the Colonie Zoning Board of Appeals opted to allow attorneys for Memory Gardens and Afrim’s Sports more time to submit documents pertaining to a proposed sports complex next to the cemetery before making a final decision.

The Thursday, Nov. 21, meeting stretched long into the night and the Public Operations Center on Old Niskayuna Road was filled to capacity with some people even standing in the doorway as the zoning board heard arguments from supporters and opponents of the contentious proposal.

At the close of the hearing and following an hour and fifteen minutes of public comments, board member Michael Gary remarked, “I think this is the longest and most active meeting we’ve had in our tenure.”

Afrim’s Sports, Inc., which is owned by Afrim Nezaj, is applying to have property Nezaj hopes to purchase at 969 Watervliet Shaker Road rezoned to an amusement area. Currently it is classified commercial office, which does not currently allow for Nezaj to build a proposed sports complex that would include an 86,865-square-foot dome, four soccer fields, a 3,400-square-foot multi-use building and a parking lot with 377 parking spaces.

Victor Caponera, a lawyer representing Afrim’s Sports, said Nejaz’s intended uses for the property are already among the acceptable uses in a commercial office zone.

“If my client were just building domes, we wouldn’t be here,” Caponera said.

Caponera also argued that Nezaj should be allowed to purchase the property and develop it as a sports complex for hardship reasons since the current owner has been trying to sell the land since 2008 and its value has dropped about $3 million dollars.

“Our position is that the client cannot make a reliable return on this property,” said Caponera, who spoke for an hour and a half.

Following Caponera’s presentation, Peter Barber, the lawyer representing Memory Gardens, said the property should not be rezoned.

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