The proposed location of Colonie Hills
LATHAM — Rehabilitation Support Services, a Guilderland based company that offers a host of services to those with mental illness and substance abuse issues that is currently suing the town, has filed a formal application with the Planning Board to build a 128-unit housing complex on Troy-Schenectady Road.
It is one of two proposed developments that would, if approved by the Planning Board, encompass nearly 100 acres on the busy thoroughfare.
In 2014, RSS wanted to use a Planned Development District zoning that was approved in 2007 for a project called Swatling Acres. The RSS plan was – and still is – to develop Colonie Hills on 39 acres of wooded land behind the old Kmart Department store. The Town Board, instead of extending the PDD, rescinded it and the land reverted to zoning for Commercial Office Residential.
RSS filed two lawsuits in response. One is an Article 78 filed in state court and accuses the town of not following proper procedures to change the zoning, and the second is a federal Fair Housing lawsuit for discrimination.
“The lawsuits are still pending, but on hold as RSS moves through the Planning Board process,” said a spokesman for RSS, Steve Janack.
Town attorney Michael C. Magguilli said RSS had never filed a formal application before but instead wanted to piggy back on the previous PDD while making a number of substantial modifications to the plan.
“Before this application they never officially put one in,” he said, adding the lawsuit and the application are two separate and distinct actions. “We will treat it like any other application by any other developer who wants to build in the town.”
He said the town filed a motion to dismiss each of the lawsuits and are awaiting the two judges to rule. In addition to development rights, he said there is also an unspecified monetary component to the suit as well as attorney fees.
In May, RSS presented a sketch plan to the Planning Board for the $30 million, 13-building supportive housing project that would designate 32 units for seniors, 46 for those with limited income and 50 for people with unspecified mental disabilities. The project also includes a community building to offer workshops, seminars and other services said RSS Executive Director William DeVita.
“Since the original project was designed, there has been additional development, like a funeral home and Cumberland farms and other development and re-development along the Troy-Schenectady corridor,” he said. “At this point in time it is still a sketch plan but we are looking forward to working with the Planning Board and Joe LaCavita in bringing the project to a conclusion.”
According to Ken Kearney, President and CEO of Kearney Development, the construction/realty company that would build and lease Colonie Hills, the rents are affordable across the board but are not subsidized in any of the traditional ways like Section 8.
For example, he said, based on 2014 numbers, the rent for a two bedroom, workforce housing unit would have been $915, which will go up a bit based on the passage of time and the costs associated with that. A three bedroom would cost $1,050 a month and a one bedroom would go for $790 a month.
A one bedroom for seniors would rent for about $650 a month based on 2014 numbers, with apartments designated to those with mental illnesses going for about the same.
He said the project would still be profitable by using tax credits afforded by the government and banks to keep interest rates down for companies that cater to the population targeted by Colonie Hills.
There is a need for affordable senior housing in the Town of Colonie, DeVita said, and in particular, the people he is looking to move into Colonie Hills.
The senior apartments are for anyone 55 and older who meet certain income requirements and those looking to move into the “workforce apartments” must also meet income requirements.
“They are typically designed for people who are in the workforce but whose income that might fall a little bit short to qualify for affordable housing in the town of Colonie,” he said. “Peoples’ compensation have not always kept place with quality housing.”
The largest chunk of apartments in the proposed complex are earmarked for those recovering from a wide range of mental illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
“Sometimes people with mental illness suffer job loss or another setback in their life and as they recover, and get themselves back into the workforce, sometimes finding affordable housing is a challenge,” he said. “It’s a model being used across New York state and other parts of the country. The disabled, workforce and seniors living all living in the same community works very well.”
A time frame for construction is contingent on the approval process, DeVita said.
The second project in front of the Planning Board is known as Halfmoom Estates, but it’s only a working name said Nick Costa, owner at Advance Engineering and Surveying.
The plan calls for subdividing 50.9 acres of land on the north side of Troy-Schenectady Road near Grove, Vista, Sylvan, Proctor and Harding avenues, into 67 lots and develop the lots into single family homes.
Costa presented a sketch plan to the Planning Board in May on behalf of Halfmoon Materials and Supply.
“The next step is concept submittal package and then a site plan,” he said. It’s a straight forward residential subdivision. There are some technical issues you have to address like you do with any development but I don’t see anything that is a major show stopper.”
He said they will probably be back in front of the Planning Board sometime this summer and if all goes according to plan, construction could start in 18 or so months. The company has not yet hired a builder.
The cost of the homes, he said, will likely be comparable to a market value of homes in the Latham area.
The stretch of road from the Latham Circle into Watervliet is spotted with new businesses, old businesses, empty buildings and vacant land.
“Route 2 is slowly coming back to life,” said Supervisor Paula Mahan. “It’s one of the areas where there have been opportunities for re-development and new development as well.”