Michael Welti and Chuck Voss address the public at Shaker Junior High School on Thrusday, Dec. 1. (Photo by Kassie Parisi/Spotlight News)
LATHAM— Public hearings about the town’s Comprehensive Plan review were held last week at Loudonville Elementary School and Shaker Junior High School. While residents at both meetings were able to describe many aspects of the town they enjoy, repeat issues such as traffic and development were brought up, along with concerns about affordable housing.
On Tuesday, Nov. 29, at Loudonville Elementary School, residents said positive aspects of the town included its preservation of history, access to public transportation systems and its vast network of youth recreation opportunities.
“The town has a rich history of providing the public-private partnership for youth recreational activities,” said Colonie resident and Albany County Legislator Paul Burgdorf (D-23.)
“What I find most delightful about living in Colonie,” said Susan Weber, member of the activist group SAVE Colonie, “is the variety of land uses. You drive up Loudonville Road and go through old Loudonville and you see the beautiful, old houses, the big old trees. You keep going up before Siena, and there are open spaces that used to be farmland.”
Weber mentioned that the remaining woodlands give the town a different feel from other places she’s lived, but that no one should take that feeling for granted.
“We’re going to have to work really, really hard if we’re going to keep that feeling in Colonie,” she said.
Residents at that meeting also commended the town services and central location.
At both meetings, residents touched on possibly demanding the town hold incoming developers to higher design standards.
“I think we’ve talked a lot tonight about how the Town of Colonie is a wonderful place to live, and it’s a place where a lot of people want to establish businesses and develop properties that are left. And I think we have been remiss in not being more demanding when a project is before the town for approval. We’ve not said, ‘Okay, fine, you can do this, but let’s make it look a little nicer.’ Let’s make it fit with what we want the community to look like,” Weber said at the Loudonville meeting.
At the meeting on Thursday, Dec. 1, at Shaker Junior High School, residents said the town’s close proximity to higher education facilities and its high quality school districts as positive attributes, and also, like the residents at the Loudonville meeting, touted the town’s preservation of historical sites — such as the Shaker properties — as a significant positive.
When asked to address town concerns at Thursday’s meeting, a large chunk of time was spent talking about planned development districts, and the way in which developers are building their projects right now. Many residents criticized the fact developers seem to force as many structures as they can onto a piece of property so as to get the most bang for their buck, and also criticized the sizes and prices of some of the new buildings and apartment complexes.
“The town is definitely becoming more urbanized,” said one resident. “And as that happens, open space is going away very quickly.”
At Thursday’s meeting, Michael Welti, senior land use planner at Barton and Loguidice, the engineering firm that is overseeing the planning process, said his firm has been in communication with town school districts, transportation authorities and other entities in order to gather relevant information about the town itself.
“We’re still very much in the process of that. On the other side of things is working with you to identify the issues that we need to focus on, and actually that helps inform what we need to dig into on the data gathering side, as well,” Welti said at the Shaker Junior High meeting. “Your involvement with the process will hopefully be reflected in the plan.”
The next public hearings for the Comprehensive Plan review will be Wednesday, Dec. 7, at the Lishakill Middle School auditorium, and Wednesday, Dec. 14, at The Crossings in the main meeting room. Both meeting begin at 6:30 p.m.