Developers present The Summit to the Planning Board (Photo by Jim Franco/Spotlight News)
COLONIE — The Developer of a plot of land along Forts Ferry Road presented three options to build an office building and 62 units of senior housing to the Planning Board on Tuesday, Dec. 19.
While the board cannot legally say which option it prefers, comments by its members and the response by a the team put together by developer Frank Nigro seemed to lean towards the smaller sized office building – 30,000-square-foot built on two floors – to accompany the three-story, 62-unit apartment building for seniors.
Meanwhile, residents living in neighborhoods near the plot of wooded land are attempting to collect money on a gofundme page to pay for the legal expenses of trying to stop the project.
“There are really two options that make sense, the three-story, 47,000-square-foot office or the 30,000 [two-story] option,” said Mary Beth Slaven, an attorney for Nigro’s team. “The applicant would prefer to have the 47,000 because it provides for better utilization of the site, but by the same token, we appreciate the comments from the Planning Board in trying to minimize the visual impact of that building and to make sure it stays within the character of the neighborhood.”
In March, Nigro and his team presented to the Planning Board the Summit at Forts Ferry, a plan to build 110 units of senior housing. Since that plan exceeded the permitted density under the existing Office Residential zoning, he asked for Planned Development District status.
It was met with such staunch public opposition he pulled the project.
In October, he brought a new plan that is within the existing zoning parameters and included a 47,000-square-foot, three-story office building and an 87,000-square-foot, three-story, 62-unit apartment building for seniors.
The Planning Board was cool to the idea, and without issuing any ultimatums, had some recommendations for Nigro – some of which would require variances he didn’t need before, like moving the office beyond the maximum allowable distance from Forts Ferry Road and not having the front door face the road.
To accompany the senior housing, option one is the 30,000-square-foot, two-story office building, the second is a 47,000-square-foot, three-story office building and the third is a 47,000-square-foot, two story office building.
In all three, one of the detached, multi-unit garages would shift from the south side to the north to act as a buffer between the development and existing neighborhoods.
The land is across Forts Ferry Road from the medical arts building and across Wade Road Extension from the Target plaza and two hotels. On the other side of the land, there are residential neighborhoods along Omega Terrace and Harrowgate Way.
While there were fewer residents there than at the initial meeting in March, Erich Smith, president of the West Latham Neighborhood Association, said concerns neighbors have are the height of the three-story senior housing building, traffic and storm water running off the site into the residential neighborhoods.
“We are not happy because it will create a lot of traffic on Forts Ferry,” he said. “We are concerned about the traffic that office building will create for us.”
Wendy Holsberger, a member of Nigro’s team, said traffic based on a 47,000-square-foot office building and 62 units of senior housing would increase by 85 trips at the morning and 87 in the afternoon rush hours and that would only mean a delay of about two seconds.
Joe Grasso, the town’s designated engineer on the project, said town complies with state storm water management regulations and there will not be any storm water leaving the site. Rather, it will be funneled to catch basins located throughout the site and a natural swale behind the garages.
Grasso reiterated the findings in the traffic studies mentioned by Holsberger and added that those numbers were for a 47,000-square-foot building — A 30,000-square-foot building would cut new traffic by a third.
“Under the current zoning this project could be developed with easily more than 200,000 square feet of office space and the level of traffic would be much more significant,” Grasso said.
He also said the developer will build a sidewalk from Wade Road down Forts Ferry Road to an existing sidewalk at Omega Terrace.
Planning Board members, by and large, applauded the developer for making the changes, especially making it smaller.
Neighbors, though are still not sold on the idea. As of Friday, Dec. 22, the West Latham Neighborhood Association raised $425 of its goal of $5,000 on the gofundme page to “take the only path we now have” to “push back on overdevelopment of our neighborhood and retain legal counsel and our own traffic and environmental engineering,” according to the gofundme page created by John Drake.
Frank Mauriello, the minority leader on the Albany County Legislature and the Republican candidate for town supervisor who lost a bid for the seat in last month, donated $100, Todd Drake donated $200 and former county Legislature Tim Nichols donated $100. There was also an anonymous $25 donation.