New Scotland condo project receives key approval

— From Long submittal to the town of New Scotland

A proposed 50-unit condominium project off of New Scotland Road recently cleared a regulatory hurdle as it was awarded two variances from the town’s zoning code. 

NEW SCOTLAND — A long-in-the-making condo project off of New Scotland Road picked up momentum recently with the approval of two variance requests it had been seeking. 

The town’s zoning board of appeals in December approved two variances for the proposed multi-family residential development at 2080 New Scotland Road, granting relief from all on-street parking required on both sides of the street and from a requirement for bike lanes.

In January, the planning board, which is the lead agency for the project, discussed at length concerns about stormwater management.

The now-50-unit condominium project was initially proposed as 72 apartments, which forced the town to make changes to its zoning law. The current proposal is for 11 four-unit buildings and two three-unit structures.

When he first presented it, project owner Richard Long thought that the town’s zoning code hadn’t been clear on the  allowable density for his proposed development. During the zoning board’s first meeting on the proposal, in June 2021, representatives for Long argued there had been different housing standards in the hamlet-zoned district: One standard specified only one home per acre while another allowed a residential unit every 3,000 square feet.

The town board eventually cleaned up the zoning law’s language, which now allows for 40 total units in the hamlet; however, developers would be eligible for a maximum 10-additional-unit density bonus “in return for providing certain amenities to the town.” 

Although the variances were approved unanimously, some board members raised concerns during the December meeting about the initial project proposed for the newly rezoned hamlet district. They believed that the project did not completely adhere to the new zoning code.

Edith Abrams expressed her disappointment in the project’s lack of alignment with the town’s vision for the area, but said she did appreciate the design changes that were made. Dean Sommer, who has since departed from the board, expressed worries about the potential precedent that could be set if similar variances were easily granted in the future.

Board attorney Crystal Peck said, while a future project may come before the board seeking similar variances, it’s the board’s responsibility to take each application on a case-by-case basis, to look at site-specific circumstances and why that variance should or should not be granted.

The board also placed conditions on the variance requests:

— To compensate for the lack of dedicated bike lanes, “share the road” markings are to be installed on the condo development’s new private road; and 

— With on-street parking removed, a minimum of two speed humps are to be installed to discourage speeding and enhance safety.

With variances in hand, Long still has the proposal’s lead agency to deal with. The planning board will decide if the project meets the eligibility requirements to receive the 10-additional-unit density bonus. But, before that decision is made, the planning board in January discussed concerns about stormwater management. 

Chairman Jeffrey Baker noted that the stormwater swales, an excavated channel or trench, were shown on the plans as very close to the backs of the buildings.

He said having the swales so close, some of which were just six feet from the buildings, would limit the usable recreational space behind the units. Baker suggested channeling roof runoff into drainage pipes instead, which would avoid having swales in the rear yards.

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