Hiawatha Trails stalled by litigation 

Enterprise file photo — Elizabeth Floyd Mair

Geoffrey Van Epps, who owns the Hiawatha Trails Executive Golf Course, spoke to a crowd when the zoning board had not yet given the proposed senior facility the green light. 

GUILDERLAND — Hiawatha Trails — an apartment complex for seniors that made activists of many Guilderland residents when it was proposed — is in a holding pattern for now, until the court challenge against it is resolved, said attorney Terresa Bakner today. 

“All I can say is we’re waiting for the litigation to be complete before we moved forward with the project,” Bakner said. She is the attorney for the project’s developer, Tony Carrow of Carrow Real Estate Services.

Hiawatha Trails is a 256-unit senior independent-living facility at 6025 and 6051 State Farm Road, across from Presidential Way and the Farnsworth Middle School. It is located on the site of the former Hiawatha Trails Executive Golf Course. Grassroots opposition to the project gave rise to the Guilderland Coalition for Responsible Development and to more than a year of controversy before the project was approved in May 2019. 

Neighbors of Hiawatha Trails brought an Article 78 proceeding — typically used by citizens to question government decisions — against the project that was decided in favor of the town’s zoning board, the developer, and the golf course’s owners. Last October, Acting Justice Gerald W. Connolly of the Albany County Supreme Court, the lowest level of the state’s three-tiered system, made the decision.

In November, the seven neighbors, all residents of Presidential Estates, across State Farm road from the project, filed a notice of appeal with the Appellate Division, the middle-level court.

The appeal has not been perfected, Bakner said, meaning that no appeal has yet been filed. 

Any appeal would be “a substantive filing in response to the fact that we won before,” Bakner said. 

Jonathan Tingley, attorney for the plaintiffs, did not return calls asking for comment, and plaintiffs who could be reached declined to comment. 

The issue of what may need to be done to meet the requirements of the state fire code is on hold for now, said Bakner, because of the legal case. 

 The Hiawatha Trails project will need to comply with the state fire code before it can get a building permit, town Supervisor Peter Barber told The Enterprise in December. 

 The state code requires a development of that size to have two access roads, while the current plan for Hiawatha Trails has just one.

According to New York State Fire Code, any multi-residential building of more than 200 units must have two separate access roads for fire apparatuses, regardless of whether sprinklers are in use throughout the complex. 

Hiawatha Trails has one access road, in and out, onto State Farm Road, which is a state highway. 

These access roads must be a certain distance apart as well. The code states, “Where two fire apparatus access roads are required, they shall be placed a distance apart equal to not less than one-half of the length of the maximum overall diagonal dimension of the property or area to be served, measured in a straight line between accesses.” 

The applicant may be required, Barber said earlier, to add another entrance. He noted at the time that, if a second entry road is required, the town would like Carrow to add it on his land, and not the 24 acres, or 63 percent, of the site to be dedicated to the town as parkland. 

Carrow is also chief of the Westmere Fire Department. 

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