Lott named new Guilderland ZBA chair

Enterprise file photo — Elizabeth Floyd Mair

Elizabeth Lott was recently named to succeed Thomas Remmert as chair of the Guilderland Zoning Board of Appeals. 

GUILDERLAND — The Guilderland Zoning Board of Appeals had a significant shake-up at the start of the New Year.

During the town board’s reorganizational meeting, attorney Elizabeth Lott was named to succeed longtime chairman, Thomas Remmert. 

“He was in that role for over seven years and as a member for 18 years and, again, I always say the ZBA chairs have a very difficult job …,” said Supervisor Peter Barber of Remmert on Jan. 3. “Your job, when you’re judging and hearing competing interests and ultimately, you know, somebody may or may not be satisfied with what you say,” concluded Barber who chaired Guilderland’s zoning board for 16 years before becoming supervisor.

Also named to the five-member zoning board were newcomers Nicole Bentresca-Cohen, whose term expires at the end of 2027, and Kevin McDonald, whose term expires at the end of 2024. Stephen Albert was once again named alternate.

In the race for town board in November, McDonald received most of the 154 write-in votes. Jacob Crawford had been running unopposed for the seat.

In June 2021, McDonald had run with Christine Napierski in Guilderland’s first-ever Democratic primary, taking a stance against rampant development, including objecting to a pair of projects that are now able to go forward after a lawsuit brought by McDonald and his Westmere neighbors was ultimately unsuccessful: a 222-unit apartment complex, The Apex at Guilderland, now to be constructed by a Troy company, and a Costco Wholesale store.

While Napierski was successful in both the primary and the general election, McDonald was not. Laurel Bohl, who had vacated the town board seat now filled by Crawford, and also opposed development, had backed McDonald.



Lott told The Enterprise this week that Remmert had been saying he wasn’t going to sign on for another term when his current term expired at the end of last year

“So then the question was: Who else is interested?” she said. “So I guess I volunteered.”

As for why she wanted the position, Lott said it happened to coincide with her retirement from the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board, where she had been an attorney in the general counsel’s office for years.

“I felt that this was a good time in my life to go ahead and take over,” she said.

Lott was first appointed to the zoning board in 2019

Having “come and gone from Guilderland over the years,” Lott said she’d “come to the realization that I was definitely staying in Guilderland.” So, having reached that decision, Lott said she began paying more attention to local issues, which she noted would come up as part of family conversations. Lott’s parents still live in town as do two of her sisters. 

“In fact, I was an applicant for the justice job. That was really how it started,” Lott said of her interest in getting more involved in the community. “Where I did an interview before the town board for that position.”

Lott was one of 14 attorneys who applied in March 2018 to replace judge Richard Sherwood, who was arrested by the New York State Attorney General on larceny charges for stealing millions from family trusts in his work as a private attorney.

Applying for the town justice position, Lott said, let board members know “that I was ready to work for the town or to do something.”

Guilderland’s planning and zoning board have received criticism from some residents for being little more than rubber stamps for developers.

Asked about that criticism, Lott said she hopes that’s not the case.

She said training received by the boards goes over what happens when boards are actually rubber stamps, “usually their decisions are not upheld.”

“So you really have to follow the law and implement the law and make sure that, in your decision, you’re articulating the reasons for your decision,” Lott said. “You have to go through the entire analysis. And I think we have done that.”

In the last few years, the town has turned back multiple lawsuits related to proposed projects near Crossgates Mall; at least one was over the depth of project review. New zoning board member McDonald was a plaintiff in one of those suits. 

In addition to chairing the town’s zoning board, Lott is a member of Guilderland’s Comprehensive Plan Update Committee.

Asked about the recent calls by some residents for a moratorium on development while the committee updating Guilderland’s two-decade-old comprehensive plan does its work, Lott declined to comment.


Planning board

At the reorganizational meeting, town board members once again named Stephen Feeney as planning board chairman, a position he’s held since 2000. 

Barber recused himself because he is Feeney’s cousin; the other four board members voted in favor of the appointment.

Christopher Longo was also named to another term on the board; his term is due to expire in 2029.

Also on Jan. 3, Barber recognized a former board member.

“Jim Cohen, who passed away back in December, but was a planning board member for almost, actually almost 19 years,” Barber said. “And again, he was always, like I say, an independent voice and a good listener and really good member; his attendance was near perfect. So again, I want to thank Jim for those years of service.”

— Melissa Hale-Spencer contributed reporting from the Jan. 3 town board meeting and on Kevin McDonald.

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