No moratorium yet, super cites water-capacity concerns

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff

Speaking out: Robyn Gray, who chairs the Guilderland Coalition for Responsible Growth, spoke last May against granting town roads to Pyramid to build a Costco retail center. This week, Gray spoke to the Guilderland Town Board about enacting a moratorium on building.

GUILDERLAND — Three months ago, Robyn Gray came before the town board here to push for a building moratorium as Guilderland works to update its comprehensive plan.

On Tuesday, she was at it again — with the same result.

Gray, who chairs the Guilderland Coalition for Responsible Growth, told the board on Feb. 6 she had stopped at the grocery store that day for just a few items but was there for over an hour, stopped by other shoppers asking, “Is there a moratorium?”

Gray went on, “People want to see it. They see what’s being built on Western Avenue. They’re not happy. They know we’re doing a comprehensive plan. So what are we doing with this?”

The town’s attorney, James Melita, responded that adopting a moratorium now would be premature.

“I think if we start prohibiting building at this point in time, it could be considered selective zoning or spot zoning which could open the town up to liability,” said Melita. “That’s my opinion.”

“I’m happy to hear that that’s your opinion, not a legal opinion,” responded Gray, “because I consider that to be total B.S.”

Gray also noted that Supervisor Peter Barber had said at previous meetings that a moratorium could be enacted six months before the end of the comprehensive-plan process.

Gray noted the consultants the town hired to guide the update process had a two-year contract and said, “We’re 18 months into the process.”

Barber responded that there would be a Feb. 12 public workshop to review the goals and recommendations of the consultant and the update committee and then, on March 12, the committee will meet to discuss adopting the recommendations.

“Once those are adopted, that’s when the town board could decide if there are some goals or recommendations … that need to be protected in some way,” said Barber.

Barber added that his primary concern is water capacity.

“I’ve already asked the town engineer, the water superintendent to report back to the board on whether or not there should be a prohibition or temporary ban on  water,” he said.

Currently, Barber said, the town uses 3.5 million gallons in the winter months and twice that amount in the summer months.

“Something’s got to give at some point,” said Barber, noting the town would have to either increase its water capacity or reduce demand.

Barber also told Gray that moratoriums are “not perpetual.”

Gray asserted that the committee updating the two-decades-old comprehensive plan had not been given clear guidelines to start.

“They spent the first three months not knowing who’s on first,” said Gray. “We all know that.”

“They’re starting to move forward,” she went on. “But I’m sorry, I think you’re just dragging your feet. You don’t want the moratorium; many of your constituents in this town do.”

Sandra Dollard, director of Guilderland’s chamber of commerce, spoke next, citing her involvement in comprehensive-plan development for Delmar and also Voorheesville.

Each took over two years, she said. “But they didn’t put the moratorium in place right away … because they had to have a plan.”

Guilderland resident Karen White said she, like Barber, was concerned about water, and even drought with the lack of snow this winter.

She complained that the recent proposal by New York Oncology Hematology to build a $55 million regional cancer center next to Crossgates Mall did not go through the process followed by some much smaller projects, starting with a preliminary Development Planning Committee meeting.

“It just seems very selective and that troubles me,” said White, “because I think, if you’re going to be really transparent … everybody should go through the same hoops.”

Baber responded that meeting with various department heads at a Development Planning Committee meeting is voluntary for applicants.

“If you’re an applicant and you want to get the benefit of hearing the town comments from town staff, you can come, but you’re not required to do it.”

He also noted that the Pyramid-owned property where NYOH plans to build its cancer center had already been through the State Environmental Quality Review Process.

“It was already determined that was within that allowed use,” said Barber.

He added later that the Development Planning Committee meetings are open to the public, to which White responded, “Clearly there was work done behind the scenes on this.”

“But that may be just conversations they had with Ken or Jackie,” Barber said of the town’s planner Kenneth Kovalchik, and with Jacqueline Coons, Guilderland’s chief building and zoning inspector.

“That’s just administrative review, processing an application,” said Barber.

“It doesn’t seem very transparent,” said White “because, if we’re concerned about water and sewer,  … they’re just kind of working behind the scenes, and then the public doesn’t find out really what the story is.”

Patricia McCarthy, who said she has lived in Westmer for 49 years, declared that traffic is “bad all around” and is “only going to get worse adding in the 700 cars for Costco, the 600 for the cancer facility.”

She called for a moratorium on larger building proposals until the comprehensive plan is finalized.

This should be in place, she said, “until you can tell the residents of Guilderland, particularly Westmere, how the additional traffic is not going to have a negative impact on us, our properties, and our quality of life.”

Citing all the apartments that are being built, she concluded, “And, as far as water goes, I probably shouldn’t say this, but I’m going to continue watering my lawn.”

More Guilderland News

  • In a Jan. 25 memo to the town board, Jacqueline Coons, Guilderland’s chief building and zoning inspector, wrote that, in allowing single-family or two-family dwellings to be occupied on a transient basis, “It seems appropriate that the use be regulated differently than commercial hotel/motel occupancies as it is a less intense use and as such could be compatible with locations that may not be zoned a commercial district.”

  • GUILDERLAND — On Sunday evening, a car leaving the Northway on the ramp to Crossgates Mall careen

  • “The Guilderland Public Library does not condone discrimination, harassment, or racism in any form, has policies in place that prevent and prohibit such behavior, and will immediately investigate these allegations,” said the library’s interim director, Nathaniel Heyer, in a statement the day after the café closed.

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