Roughly 20 residents stood up and spoke before the Bethlehem Planning Board earlier this week. That fact, alone, is news worthy on account that is more than a few who usually attend such meetings. But, the relative crowd swell is representing the growing concern residents have with the amount of development happening within town. There are two significant residential developments proposed for the eastern corridor of Kenwood Avenue. That corner of town has been left unmolested by development in recent years, due largely in part to Kleinke Farm.
However, recent news revealed plans for 70 acres of that land to be plowed over for more than 60 residential buildings. That proposal, still in its infancy, could add to a 74-unit multi-family development for Kenwood Avenue and Rockefeller Road, and another 48-condominium project on Fuera Bush Road.
It’s the kind of growth to which longtime Colonie residents have grown accustomed, especially in Latham. North Colonie enrollment numbers climb as housing has popped up along the length of Troy-Schenectady Road. Now the hotspot is Albany-Shaker and Sand Creek roads, which hardly resemble how they once looked a decade ago. The cutting down of trees and constant appearance of earth moving machines has coaxed the creation of Save Colonie, a “partnership for planning” group created by citizens that is now 300 strong on Facebook.
The fervor to preserve open space in our communities has been growing stronger in recent years.
The remaining farm lands in both towns continue to shrink to the demand for residential housing. With developers buying land for sometimes three times its assessed value, weary farm families are enticed to sell. In both towns, families enjoy the access to best-in-class caliber of public schools. For Bethlehem, there is the additional factor of the popular Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail. The bike path connects the heart of town with downtown Albany, and beyond. Now, any green space left open that neighbors this hot spot is sought for developing, including that in Slingerlands, where there is a historic district in place.
However, without the backing of zoning laws to back it, The Slingerlands Historic District is little more than a sign on the side of the road. Which is why those on the western corridor of Kenwood Avenue, and the adjoining New Scotland Road are not without concerns, themselves.
As we enter an election year that calls for residents to decide also on each of their respective supervisors, people need to assess what it is they want to see in their town. The topic of open space is not new, so candidates best have an answer prepared before November. Likewise, residents need to look around them and weigh their feelings about preserving the town in which they live and align themselves with like-minded candidates who will respond to the call for action. Colonie is revisiting its comprehensive plan. Sounds like Bethlehem should do the same.
Michael Hallisey is Managing Editor of Spotlight Newspapers.