Town board approves 210-unit complex
GUILDERLAND — After more than five years and many concessions on the part of the developer, the town board finally, on Tuesday, approved the rezone of a 22-acre parcel of land at 1700 Western Avenue, to allow the construction of a 210-unit apartment complex.
The vote on the all-Democratic board was unanimous.
“This is a tough decision for board members to grapple with,” said Supervisor Kenneth Runion at the start of the meeting.
It took another two-and-a-half hours of discussion between the board members and the developer, Vincent Wolanin, president of The Wolanin Companies Ltd., for the board to approve a conditional rezone of the parcel.
A packed hall listened.
The 22 acres have been rezoned, as of Tuesday, from Residential R15 and Residential R40 to Planned Unit Development.
The gated community will feature enclosed garages, a clubhouse, a pool, a 12,000-square-foot commercial building, and 65-percent green space.
Two public hearings held in the last two months involved opposition from residents of neighboring streets, who expressed concerns with traffic problems, due to the density of the population of the complex, as well as the proximity of the buildings to single-family homes.
Those speaking in favor of the project included Wolanin employees and residents of his other facilities.
The project’s engineer, Dave Ingalls, of Ingalls and Associates, said, at the last hearing, that the Albany County Department of Public Works signed off on a study that showed the number of cars at the complex would not make a significant impact on the traffic patterns of the neighboring side streets and Western Avenue.
Wolanin emphasized that he had already reduced the density of the complex from 248 units to 210 units, eliminated entry and exit points onto Johnston Road, and provided extra buffer space between the construction zones and neighboring houses.
In an effort to appease residents who opposed the development, Councilman Paul Pastore asked Wolanin, on Tuesday, if he would be willing to reduce the density of the complex even further.
“The owner and developer has shown a great willingness to address concerns,” said Pastore. “Would you consider reducing the density even more, maybe by removing one more building?”
Wolanin said that he would not.
“That would not be good business for us or the town,” the developer said. “There are certain overhead costs that we have to meet, and we are already at the bare bones with this.”
He said removing another 10 units would hardly make a noticeable difference in density or traffic, and said it would be like “political candy” to simply agree to remove another building.
Wolanin expressed frustration at the meeting this week, saying he had already made as many concessions as he could.
“I don’t have anything left to give,” he said. “I am willing to do whatever is reasonable, but I am at my limit here.”
The board ultimately approved the rezone, with the following conditions:
- There will be no entrance or exit onto Patricia Lane or Newman Road;
- There will be no entrance or exit onto Westmere Elementary School’s access road;
- Present occupants of the 1700 development can enter and exit the complex through the project driveway or the Price Chopper Plaza;
- No part of the driveway or parking area shall fall within a 100-foot barrier or neighboring houses;
- The pool and clubhouse will be significantly buffered with a privacy fence;
- A 200-foot buffer will be implemented between all buildings and residences on Joseph Terrace;
- The maximum density of the complex will be 210 units;
- The developer will contact the state’s Department of Transportation regarding the timing of the light at the intersection between Western Avenue and Johnston Road;
- There will be a Capital District Transportation Authority bus stop within the development; and
- The planning board shall hold a minimum of one public hearing about the detailed site plan.
While voting on the proposal, Pastore said he thought the complex would fit perfectly within the town’s comprehensive plan and embodied the “spirit” of Smart Growth, an idea that Wolanin had stressed in the past.
The comprehensive plan says to “concentrate higher density development within densely populated areas such as the Westmere/McKownville area…Westmere and McKownville provide the most services and the best access to public transportation.”
The other board members said they believed that, with the conditions imposed on the approval, the complex would bring much-needed housing to the town, along with a significant tax contribution, but would not lead to any degradation of nearby residential neighborhoods.
The next step for the project will be working with the planning board to create a detailed site plan.