COLONIE – The town Planning Board, without taking a vote, sent the plan to build 15 residential homes on land between Boght Road and Route 9 back to the drawing board.
The Planned Development District was initially presented early last month and included building the homes in a neighborhood called Ridgeview Meadows, a 56-bed memory care facility for seniors on land zoned for Single Family Residential and an 80-bed assisted living facility in addition to some space dedicated to retail on 27-plus acres.
In front of a standing room only crowd on Tuesday, July 11, Town Attorney Michael Magguilli set the stage before the applicant even began the presentation of just the residential aspect of the plan. The official request for a PDD for the entire project, though, is still technically in front of the town for consideration, which Magguilli said is a problem.
“The segmentation issue is one thing I am concerned about since I am the person who would have to defend the town against any future lawsuits,” he said. “If the residential portion is approved now, and then you come back to get the commercial portion approved at a later date, that is a real issue for the town.”
The majority of the land, 22.2 acres, is zoned Single Family Residential while the rest, closest to Route 9, is zoned Commercial Office Residential.
It is the chunk of land zoned SFR between where developers want to
build the 15 homes and the stretch of land along Route 9 that is already zoned COR that drew the sharpest criticism from the board.
Developers need a variance to construct the memory assisted living facility in the area zoned SFR, but the area was left blank on the plan presented Wednesday.
“I’m not in favor of anything other than SFR in a SFR zone,” said Craig Shamlian, a member of the Planning Board. “Clearly, we want to see what else you have planned, without that we are left to guess and we are probably not going to guess favorably from your viewpoint.”
Roger Keating, an engineer with Chazen Companies, hired to design the project by the Vermont based developer Blackrock Construction and landowner Frank Polsinello, told the board there isn’t a firm “end user” for that tract of land so presenting any plan is premature because if could change.
“I think this is a little bit piecemeal, and there is the gap of SFR that is not really spoken for right now,” said board Chair Peter Stuto. “I am not in favor of a PDD, and I’m not in favor of using any portion of SFR for anything other than SFR.”
The board was also not receptive to connecting the new neighborhood to the long-standing, high-end Dutch Meadows neighborhood located off Boght Road. And neither was the majority of the crowd who turned out in opposition of the project.
Since each of the seven board members voiced concerns about the project before the public had a chance to comment – and Stuto said there would not be a vote, essentially sending the applicants back to revamp the plan – only a few residents who signed up to speak actually took a turn at the microphone.
Common themes from the board, and the few residents who did speak, was they didn’t want the cul-de-sacs at the end of Wetherby Court and Bergen Woods Drive opened to connect to the new development, fear the smaller lot sizes would hurt property values and that the new development would add to the already problematic drainage issues.
“As a community … we are against a planned development district in single family residential. So please no commercial buildings in single family residential,” said Wetherby Court resident Jeff Connery. “We are against the conservation development in single family residential.
The proposed development is not in a conservation overlay in the town’s Comprehensive Plan. It would include smaller lot sizes, setbacks and streets and would in turn lower our property values.”
If the board granted a conservation subdivision it would have allowed the developers to shrink lot sizes from 18,000 square feet – the standard found in Dutch Meadows – to 15,000 square feet but still allow the same size homes. It would, though, have forced the developer to conserve more open space.
Connecting the similar developments that are in close proximity is favored by some engineers and town planners because it allows emergency vehicles access and helps traffic flow. But, nobody at the meeting – board members or residents – looked too kindly on that scenario for vehicles anyway.
Keating called the cul-de-sacs “temporary” and were done with a mind towards extending the existing neighborhood.
“Connectively sounds great and looks great until you are in the neighborhoods that are connected,” said Steve Heider, the former police chief and newly appointed member of the board. “If it is connected for purposes of recreation, whether be biking or walking, it’s all well and good but when you connect for vehicles, in my past life, all I saw was problems.”
Ben Avery, of Bedrock Construction, told the board his team would likely come back in the coming weeks with plans to try and get approval for the project in two phases.
“We heard the board loud and clear,” he said after the meeting.
Supervisor Paula Mahan, who was at the meeting, said the process worked as it was intended.
“It’s about the people working together with the developers, who come with a plan and an idea but there are also people in the neighborhoods who have a vested interest,” she said.