Sitting on the remains of an old wooden wagon, Gloria Knorr reminisces how her family has owned the Latham land for 100 years and explains her plans to create a community to memorialize her son.
The 13 acres Knorr is looking to sell would only go to a developer that would build affordable housing for veterans and name the community “Tim’s Way” after her adventurous son that used to love exploring the land.
Initially, Knorr intended to find a way to create affordable housing for seniors on the land, but after her son’s death she found a new purpose. The location would be ideal for a community of veterans due to its proximity to the William K. Stafford Library, the Veteran’s Affairs hospital in Albany and the Albany Vet Center off Wolf Road, where Knorr sometimes goes to see and talk to other veterans.
The property won’t go to the highest bidder or even real estate companies, but the person who will help her build a community for veterans to honor her son.
“Money has never been important to me. Yes it’s nice to eat, yes it’s nice to have heat, but money has never been a motivator for me,” said Knorr.
The land that is between Saybrook Drive and the Times Union office is in two connected parcels of seven and six acres. Knorr wants the entrance to be at Saybrook Drive. She says she won’t split the land up because the way she wants the development created, you need the one parcel to get to the other. Knorr has entertained numerous offers, but the buyers all want to split the land up and build expensive houses, similar to other housing in the area that runs around $500,000.
“My uncle, he was 79, Uncle Frank — and he said, ‘The tail goes with the dog.’ The tail goes with the dog and he’s right … I could subdivide it I guess, but the reason I need the six acres is to get to the seven,” said Knorr.
Knorr doesn’t want to sell to someone that will build giant, cookie-cutter homes either.
“My worst nightmare would be big lots and swimming pools — suburban sprawl, in other words,” said Knorr.
Another hang up for Knorr is that she wants duplexes in the neighborhood and said the planning board doesn’t want more duplexes in the area, even though the neighborhood that is adjacent to her property contains duplexes.
“A lot of people tell me they don’t want to drive through duplexes, and I just want to point out, even from Maxwell (Road) there are a few duplexes, which makes sense. You can afford it and pay your mortgage … People from the last administration say they are sorry they let them build them,” said Knorr.
With thousands of veterans exiting the military and looking for homes, a community for veterans is something that would help them feel at home and also ease the effects of PTSD. Many studies suggest that the best way for veterans to deal with the stress of war is to be around other veterans and talk to them. Knorr says when she would ask her son about the Gulf War, he would say, ”Mom, some things are best forgotten.”
Knorr envisions a community where the homes are the center of the development, facing each other and the road goes around the back. Knorr envisions doing something with Habitat for Humanity and having some of the homes built with modifications for disabled veterans.
In March of 2013, Knorr’s son Tim was on antidepressants and sleeping pills to help him fight PTSD and depression. The army veteran and DEA agent had seen and dealt with many different things while traveling the world and working for the United States Government. Tim was one of Knorr’s four children.
Knorr spoke of her son Tim as any mother would and described his final months and missed warning signs by doctors and family. She said it was because of her son’s determination and commitment to his job and that he had a fear of losing a security clearance if it was discovered he was on anti-depressants.
As a drug enforcement agent, Tim had been stationed in Brazil, where he met his wife; Ecuador and finally Portland, where he found a spot in the woods near his home and took his last breaths.
Knorr shows two pictures of her son taken just months apart and points to his facial expression where she can tell the happiness has left his eyes, and he just looks tired and sad. She shows pictures of her in Brazil on a trip when Tim flew her down to meet him. She points to his face and says, “Look how happy he was to just have helped me get down there.”
After the one-year anniversary of his death in March, she knew what she wanted to do.
“With veterans there is big unemployment, homelessness, drinking, jail time and they don’t feel welcome home — they don’t quite fit. So I’m thinking, ‘What if they had a little community and it was built as their own place?’” she said.
Knorr would like to sell her property — which is in a prime location, but has issues with the access — for around $800,000. Most of the offers have been coming in at $600,000 because the buyers only want part of the property. She’s willing to entertain offers for it if someone buys the entire property.
“Being that I’m having trouble (selling the land) because of the way in and I’m going to take a loss … I’d rather help veterans,” said Knorr.
Knorr sometimes goes to the Vet Center off Wolf Road and had attended a picnic they had. After hearing her story, a vet came over and talked to her and explained he doesn’t go to bars much anymore, but if he does and he sees a vet that needs something, he’ll invite them to stay with him for as long as they need.
“Then I knew what was I going to do, I didn’t tell him, but here’s this man saying, ‘Stay as long as you want.’ I thought I have the land; this could be your home. Stay as long as you want. I was so on fire. I was so motivated,” said Knorr.