Senior apartments proposed for Westmere

— From documents on file with the town’s building and zoning department

This revised site plan for a proposed independent-living apartment complex for residents aged 55 and older at 6232 Johnston Rd. in Westmere shows the building on the east reduced in size from the original plan, in an effort to create larger setbacks from the adjoining property lines.

GUILDERLAND — The Riitanos want to live alongside the apartment complex they plan to build for people 55 or older. Deborah Riitano plans to run the complex and the activities it offers.

Riitano Senior Apartments, a proposed independent-living complex of 72 units at 6232 Johnston Rd. in Guilderland, near Westmere Elementary School, has been before the town’s planning board twice this month and is expected to return once more, shortly, with additional information, so that the board can make a recommendation to the town’s zoning board of appeals.

Joseph Bianchine of ABD Engineers presented the project to the board on Jan. 10 and again on Jan. 24. The Riitanos propose, Bianchine said, to subdivide their 11 acres on Johnston Road in an R-40 zoning district, keeping 3.6 acres in the front for their home and developing independent-living apartments on the back 8 acres.

An R-40 district is single-family residential, with lots that are a minimum of 40,000 square feet. In this zoning district, “residential facility, independent living” is an allowed use with a special-use permit.

Access would be from a private road that would be extended from where the Riitanos’ driveway is now, the board heard, with maintenance to be the Riitanos’ responsibility.

The plan is for market-rate apartments, many of them 1,300 square feet with two bedrooms.

The buildings — and the social and educational activities they offer — would be run by Deborah Riitano, Bianchine said. Deborah Riitano is listed among the directors of the New York StateWide Senior Action Council, a grassroots membership organization that advocates for elderly people.

The proposal is for two buildings, each with 36 units. Originally, they were to be mirror images of one another, but in response to board concerns on Jan. 10, the building on the east was reduced in size, by changing a number of apartments from two- to one-bedroom. In addition, a number of amenities, such as a craft room, a library, and an exercise room were originally proposed for both buildings, but now are planned only for the building to the west.

The Wolanin apartments at 1700 Western Ave., part of a Planned Unit Development, adjoin the property.  

At their Jan. 10 meeting, board members expressed concern about setbacks. The plan at that time  had called for setbacks of just 39 feet on one side, and 51 on another, even though multi-family developments in a single-family zoning district typically call for 100 feet. The town’s revised zoning code of 2016 had not specified that a 100-foot setback was necessary for this kind of use — which is allowed — in an R-40 zoning district, Bianchine pointed out.

Planning board Chairman Stephen Feeney said that the town board might want to revisit the new code at some point to consider clarifying this point and requiring 100-foot setbacks for multi-family developments. Feeney and other board members said that they thought that the building was tightly jammed into the site.

Bianchine returned Jan. 24 with a revised plan that allowed for a setback on one side of 100 feet, and on another side of 40 feet, although the nearest house on that side was 240 feet away.

Feeney asked Bianchine if he had considered making the buildings three stories tall, to decrease the footprint. Bianchine said he had not, since the 35-foot maximum height allowed would make it hard to do nine-foot ceilings in each apartment as well as the peaked roofs that were an integral part of the design.

Feeney suggested that Bianchine do a rendering and a site plan for three-story buildings, so the board could consider it, even if it were to require a variance from the zoning board.

Feeney said this week that sometimes a little bit of additional height could be preferable to a larger footprint with its larger impervious surfaces, especially in that area, where, he said, runoff is already an issue.

Town resident Christine Desorbo of Norwood Avenue spoke on Jan. 24 in favor of the project, saying that Guilderland residents “need senior housing so terribly, and something that is affordable, in Guilderland.”

Feeney responded, “Oh, I don’t know how affordable these will be.”

Bianchine said that the one-bedroom apartments will be “a little more affordable.”

There is clearly a need for senior apartments, Feeney said this week. “For a town of 36,000 people, I don’t think that we have a lot of units.”

Independent-living apartments have been approved, but not yet built, in the Mill Hill Planned Unit Development district at the corner of Route 155 and Mill Hill Court, near the Stewart’s Shop.

A proposed 256-unit complex of independent-living apartments for seniors that would be part of a Planned Unit Development district across from Farnsworth Middle School on Route 155 recently raised the ire of residents at a town board meeting because of the size of the project and the proposed four-story height of the apartment buildings.

Existing apartment complexes of this type in town are scant, Feeney said, naming Omni Senior Living Rentals on Carman Road and Brandle Woods just outside of Altamont.


More Guilderland News

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.