COLONIE — Two proposed senior living developments in two different areas of Colonie, both of which would require the town to change zoning of the properties, have caught the attention of neighbors who are concerned about traffic congestion and changing sightlines.
409-507 Albany Shaker Road
One proposal, planned for the former Foegtli Farm between Osborne Road and The Crossings park on Albany Shaker Road, has generated enough concern that County Legislators Joe O’Brien (D-25) and Paul Burgdorf (R-23), both of whom represent Colonie residents, have met with town officials to discuss the “substantial traffic delays and bumper-to-bumper conditions” that already occur on Albany Shaker during peak commute hours and how the Foegtli Farm project, as well as potential development on Maxwell and Everett roads, will further impact congestion and travel times.
The Albany Shaker property, which is currently zoned to allow 38 single-family homes, would need to be rezoned as a Planned Development District (PDD) before the developer could go ahead with plans to build up to 80 townhomes for individuals who are 55 or older. The Town of Colonie has said that they have requested that the developers of the Times Union Maxwell Road property conduct a comprehensive traffic study to analyze all projects that have impact or potential impact on the Albany Shaker Road corridor. They are also to convene a committee made up of town, county, and state officials, as well as representatives from the Capital District Planning Commission, to review the findings of that study.
O’Brien and Burgdorf’s predecessor in the 23rd county district, Democrat Richard Jacobson, however, proposed a “more comprehensive” traffic study that would include Osborne and Old Niskayuna roads. A resolution they drafted and passed last year calls for the Albany County Department of Public Works (DPW) to conduct that traffic study in partnership with the Town of Colonie. Last week, the two municipalities finally met and, later this week, DPW will be meeting with county officials to discuss that meeting and how to move forward. O’Brien expects the study will take likely six months to a year to complete, but said that there are many things to consider—such as airport considerations or state Department of Transportation regulations—that could potentially hinder the process. Widening areas of the densely traveled roadways and adding extra turn lanes are potential solutions O’Brien said may result from the study. These are options, he said, which “need to be thoughtfully considered by the Planning Board and, ultimately, by town elected officials before moving forward. Aside from the obvious traffic concerns, which are considerable, changing the character of the surrounding neighborhoods needs to be considered.”
Correction: Due to density concerns, the proposal on Albany Shaker was denied by the town planning board, according to town officials. The town and county traffic study, however, is still underway.
45 Forts Ferry Road
On Tuesday, March 22, Town of Colonie Supervisor Paula Mahan, and all but one town board member, attended the Colonie Town Planning Board meeting, staying until late into the night to listen to more than 20 town residents express concerns about a senior living development proposed at 45 Forts Ferry Road. The primary issue, it seems, concerned a buffer zone that was put in place between the Office/Residential zone at the Forts Ferry address and the single-family residences to the immediate north. The buffer zone, a 210-foot stretch of land to remain undeveloped, was put in place as the result of a compromise reached between the developer, the town and interested residents during the conception of the Town Comprehensive Plan and then, according to former county legislator Tim Nichols, never included in the zoning maps. There are, however, he said, public records indicating the agreement that was reached. “Their intent was crystal clear,” he said. “Everyone supported it—the neighbors, the landowners and the town were all for it.”
Then, in 2013, that buffer zone was reduced to a width of 100 feet by town officials who claim that they believed it was there by mistake. “The problem with that,” said Nichols, “is that no one who lives along that border was ever notified of that 2013 law, which is illegal. When you change zoning, you’re supposed to contact the people who live adjacent to the property where the zoning is being changed.” It wasn’t until years later, when a neighbor noticed surveyors measuring the property and looked into the proposed project, that anyone was made aware of the change to the buffer zone.
“We took it to the Town Board and told them that we fought really hard for that buffer zone and it wasn’t right,” said Nichols. “And here’s where it gets interesting.”
Nichols was told that the board had reduced the buffer zone because they had believed it to be a mistake—the same reason that Mahan gave residents at the Planning Board meeting last week. “The Town Board is obviously very interested in this,” she said. “This is something that we’ve been discussing and what’s been happening is that we’ve been getting bits and bits of information—not that we could find in town hall, but we’re getting it from the neighbors—which is helping us to put these pieces together.
“When this started out,” she said, “someone came to the attorney’s office and presented something and our attorney’s staff looked everywhere to try to find information regarding a line that was on the map. There was nothing to be found and, if you don’t have a point to start from, it’s very difficult. You’re talking about numerous paperwork throughout the town. With technology, we can try our best to find them. But they could not locate anything. If the town attorney’s office had the information that the residents have been sending us, we would have had a starting point which would have helped us to find that information.”
Commending residents for keeping town documents “for all that time,” Mahan said that the buffer zone had been put in place by previous officials and been “handed to” her administration, adding that un-trackable information and lost documents were not unprecedented. “We came to a dead end when the line on the map didn’t coincide with the land use law,” she said. “The attorney’s office thought it was a mistake.”
“I don’t believe it for a minute,” said Nichols. “And the fact that she spoke at the meeting, not once but twice-at the beginning and the end—is unprecedented. I’ve been going to planning board meetings for 25 years and I’ve never seen any town supervisor