The Colonie Town Planning Board moved to accept the concept of First Columbia’s office and hotel development after months of planning and revision.
At the Planning Board meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 16, First Columbia presented its revised plan for an office and hotel development at the corner of Wolf and Albany Shaker Roads. The new plans addressed traffic concerns on Albany Shaker and access to Afrim’s Sports, adjacent to the now vacant lot.
The Planning Board was previously unhappy with the traffic the project could potentially pose on Albany Shaker Road. However, Kevin Bette, with First Columbia, told the board on Tuesday that turning left out of the property onto Albany Shaker would be prohibited with a divider, pushing drivers to use the roundabout just past Afrim’s.
Bette reported that First Columbia and Afrim Nezaj also reached an agreement to connect the two properties with an easement. Nezaj agreed to close off the current entrance and exit to his property in exchange for allowing cars to turn left from Albany Shaker Road into the complex, which Nezaj said was necessary for his business. Now, the traffic would not get backed up with cars attempting to enter and exit both properties with two roadways.
The traffic impact on Wolf Road would also be limited with strictly right-in, right-out access to the First Columbia development.
The lot at 227 Wolf Road has been vacant for several years. Bette said it was an ideal property for the office building and extended stay hotel First Columbia has planned.
“The two growth areas in this marketplace are the chip plant in Malta and the research down at the nanotech university in Albany… One of the things the town can do is accommodate for that lodging and try to encourage more mixed use. What we propose here is an office building along Albany Shaker Road, three stories, 45,000 square feet, hopefully to attract some of that business that the high tech sector brings to this marketplace,” said Bette.
The office building will be for those coming from the airport that need a space to conduct work. The seven-story, 150,000 square-foot hotel will be designed for extended stay guests to accommodate long trips.
At less than three miles from the airport, Bette said the property is ideal for such a development. There would be minimal traffic coming from the airport, as the cars would be turning right into the property. This means less congestion on Wolf Road, and more use for the Albany Shaker roundabout.
Bette said the most ideal aspect of the development for Colonie would be the opportunity to bring more jobs to the area with the growing high tech market.
However, concerns still remain. A proposed connection with the Hampton Inn property, which lets out onto the Ulenski Drive, would potentially cause traffic to back up on residential roads.
Residents on Ulenski Drive have expressed several concerns. Kim Goodrich, who lives on Gay Lyn Drive just behind Afrim’s Sports, said on Tuesday she was concerned because traffic could already get congested on Ulenski.
“I’m concerned that people leaving Moe’s and Starbucks now will cut through Ulenski drive. I mean, that traffic backs up already,” she said.
Another resident who owns business property beside the potential First Columbia development, said that people already used his parking lot for U-turns back onto Wolf Road.
With Professor Java’s Coffee Sanctuary and Wolf Road Diner, Ulenski Drive already sees traffic, he said. With the connection from the First Columbia property to Hampton Inn, the traffic will only increase.
Chuck Voss, of Barton and Loguidice, a consulting firm specializing in engineering and landscaping, has been working with First Columbia on the project. He said that the Hampton Inn connection was unnecessary and the development could continue without it.
Goodrich also expressed concern over the environmental impact. “It’s just closer to the house,” she said. “There’s some green space right there now, which I think it would need some approval with the environmental board with the 100 foot buffer zone.”
Voss, who also presented the environmental impact for Planning Board as the lead agency for the State Environmental Quality Review Act, said the environmental impact would be minimal. Bette said the property was 40 percent of green space.
The Planning Board approved the project for the state Environmental Quality Review Act, as well as concept acceptance, but First Columbia still needs approval to begin development. Bette was told the plan needs to revise the connection to Hampton Inn and the right-turn only from Albany Shaker Road before development can move forward.