Skylane Motel remains on Central Avenue, nearly two years after investigations found the building to be in violation of hundreds of different health and safety code violations. Michael Hallisey/Spotlight
COLONIE — More than two years after a man fell through the floor at Skylane Motel on Central Avenue, sparking an investigation which revealed that the structure was unsafe and that the motel itself, which had been receiving municipal funding to house sex offenders and the homeless, was in violation of myriad health and safety codes, the blighted building may actually be demolished by this spring. If not, owner Alex Patel will once again face the $750,000 in fines that he escaped in late 2014 when he agreed to demolish Skylane and another deteriorated property on Central, the Blu-Bell motel.
At his first appearance in court in January 2014, motel owner Alex Patel pled not guilty to 254 of more than 700 violations at both properties. He was directed to vacate all residents from the Skylane and was subsequently threatened with criminal charges when placards notifying residents of the building closure went missing and residents were given an extra week to find alternative housing. In late 2014, the Colonie Town Board rejected his proposal to demolish Blu-Bell and restore the Skylane property after more than 100 residents signed a petition asking to have a voice in the future uses of the sites.
“These owners are charged with hundreds of violations that have accrued over years. The town charged the places, and now the owners have made an offer,” said Colonie resident Roger Cusick at the time. “I suspect the offer is that they want to be able to tear one down and keep the other and walk away without any penalties. You know, that whole area is a skid row. Taking down one isn’t going to be a solution. After six or eight years of wrongdoing, they shouldn’t profit from it.”
In March of 2015, Patel finally agreed to a settlement that required the demolition of both properties within three months. Nearly a year later, one property has been demolished but the other still stands. According to property owners, this is because they have been unable to get approval from the town to proceed but, in February, city officials still sought to reinstate charges against Patel for failing to meet agreed-upon deadlines.
An agreement reached in Colonie Town Court on Feb. 18, 2016 stipulates that Patel must have submitted all paperwork regarding his redevelopment plan for the site by March 3 to avoid returning to court for hundreds of code violations. The town will then have two weeks to consider the plan, which is likely to be for a mini-warehouse on the property, and demolition is expected to begin within 21 days following approval.
Patel accepted a plea deal last March with the Town of Colonie, agreeing to the town’s offer of demolishing both motels in exchange for excusing more than $750,000 in fines from violations found in the Skylane and Blu-Bell. Patel plans to submit concept plans for new development on both properties.
According to the deal, Patel must immediately apply for a demolition permit and file it with the town’s building department by Thursday, April 2. The buildings must be demolished within 90 days of approval depending on weather, possible asbestos removal, and time required for National Grid to possibly move power lines.
Along with excusing the fines, the town agreed that a seperate apartment/manager’s office located on the Skylane property could remain on the site. Once the Skylane is down, there may be a small storage facility built, according to town attorney Michael Maggiulli. A retail center may go on the Blu-Bell property.
“It’s a positive outcome for everyone,” Town Supervisor Paula Mahan said last year. “They’ve agreed to demolish both motels and move forward with future plans…. We’ll work together to improve the whole area, and we’re very, very pleased with the outcome. It’s been a lot of hard work.”
No matter what development does on the motel sites, Patel’s plan must fit into the area and comply with the Route 5 Corridor study conducted by the town several months ago, said Maggiulli. In part, the study states that the area of Central Avenue, where Patel’s motels sit is oversaturated with motels and hotels.
A new town law adopted by the Town Board last month states all plans to build a boarding facility in that area of Route 5 will be denied unless a special permit is obtained. Maggiulli has also previously said that Patel will be denied permission to build any motels or hotels in the town.
Had Patel not accepted the deal, the case would have gone to trial. He would have faced the full cost in fines, along with the possibility of 15 days of jail time per violation, Magigulli previously said. Violations totaled over 600 between the Blu-Bell and Skylane.