Wendy VanPatten Horn speaks the Planning Board about Loudon Hills East. (Jim Franco/Spotlight News)
COLONIE – The Planning Board, on Tuesday, June 5, unanimously granted a developer the OK to build 29 homes on 19.6 acres off of Spring Street Road.
There are some conditions to building Loudon Hills East, a higher end development on the currently wooded land behind Siena College just east of the East Hills neighborhood.
Prime Companies, a commercial and residential real estate company out of Cohoes, will have to physically lay out where the houses and driveways will be, and then designate those footprints with stakes or ribbons before it clears any land in an effort to save as many of the old-growth Oak and Maple trees as possible.
Also, 73 pine trees will get planted between Loudon Hills and East Hills, and four Loudon Hills homes on the west side will get moved closer to the yet to be built road to increase the buffer between the two neighborhoods.
Years ago, nobody is 100 percent sure when or by whom, but before East Hills was built, a 550-foot swath of land up to 50-foot wide now owned by Loudon Hills was cleared of the mature growth trees. That is where the new trees will get planted.
Todd Curley, a representative from Prime Companies, said he hopes to begin construction on the $400,000-plus homes by late summer. They will be three- and four- bedroom, 2,000-square-foot and larger on lots of about 34,000 square feet.
The subdivision of a nearly 52-acre chunk of land was first proposed in 2007, and was given an OK under the State Environmental Quality Review Act a year later. It was approaching final approval in 2015 but the state Department of Environmental Conservation put the brakes on because it had concerns over an access road to a now inactive landfill located northeast of the development.
To satisfy the DEC, the project was shrunk from 35 to 29 homes and shifted slightly west.
While years have passed, the concerns are the same.
“I feel there is a lot the Planning Board can do and should request regarding this plan before granting final approval,” said Wendy Van Patten Horn, who lives on Shelborne Drive and asked some lots be left vacant to keep privacy between her development and the new one. “I understand the desire to have as many lots as possible, to make a bigger profit and help the tax base of our town. However, sometimes it is to the extreme detriment of the neighbors and to the town as a whole.”
Brett Steenburgh, an engineer for Prime Companies, said the closest distance between a new home and those in the existing neighborhood is between 75 and 100 feet, well within the requirements dictated by the town for a residential zoning district.
“It is unfortunate, I don’t know the specifics on when the property was cleared onto this parcel, but if it didn’t happen 25 or 30 years ago, we would have been able to maintain some mature growth along there,” he said. “But, it’s unfortunate the developer has to spend money and plant trees there too.”
The cutting of the mature, hardwood forest was a topic of concern.
“I would like to request the five lots that border our backyards be eliminated and that will preserve all the Oaks and Maples that border our property,” said Shelborne Drive resident Candice Voss.
“We are not talking about a couple small trees we are talking about almost 100 large Oak Trees,” said Pinka Chaterji, who lives on Harvester Court. “I’m concerned with my own property values. We moved into East Hills for the lush beauty of that neighborhood so obviously I am concerned my backyard is going to have all these chopped down trees and maybe some new small trees. It won’t have the same character it had before.”
Brad Grant, the town’s designated engineer on the project from Barton and Loguidice, recommended the developer do a more thorough job of laying out the homes and driveways to save as many trees as possible before a grading permit is issued and any earth work is done.
“The trees take years to grow and if we don’t need to destroy it in 10 minutes with a chainsaw we shouldn’t,” he said.
Curley said he is in favor of that plan and was more than amenable to moving the homes on the west side closer to the road.
“Our plan is to eliminate as few trees as possible. It makes a better development by leaving the trees there,” he said. “That is something we would be open to for those lots that could be effecting some of our neighbors is to restrict the depth of the front yard and get the homes closer to the street so there is a bigger buffer in the back yard. It is certainly something we are willing to work on.”
A condition of that, though, is he still plant the trees behind the homes and include in a deed restriction barring homebuyers from cutting down those trees down after they purchase the property.
Controlling storm water was also a topic discussed, though not as intensely as during previous meetings, and the southeast corner lot is earmarked for a retention pond.
Based on a study by Creighton Manning Engineering, the project will generate 33 trips in the peak afternoon rush hour and 40 in the morning. The company determined it will not “impact traffic on Spring Street Road and the surrounding roadway network.”
It is estimated there will be about 30 children living in the new development and it is within the North Colonie Central School District.