Area residents come out against proposed contractor yard in rural Guilderland

— From Albany County Interactive Mapping

The Guilderland Zoning Board of Appeals is debating whether to issue a special-use permit to Bernard Radtke of B&B Containers, who is seeking to convert less than an acre of the nearly 56 completely undeveloped acres at 4304 Frederick Road into a contractor yard for his roll-off container business.

GUILDERLAND — A number of potentially-impacted residents called into a recent public hearing during the Feb. 16 Guilderland Zoning Board of Appeals meeting to express concern over a proposal to place a contractor yard on a nearly 56-acre parcel in the town’s rural-residential Meadowdale area. 

Bernard Radtke of B&B Containers has asked the zoning board to approve a special-use permit that would allow him to store roll-off containers, trucks, and heavy equipment at 4304 Frederick Road. 

Radtke’s submitted site plan, which was approved with conditions by the town’s planning board at its Jan. 26 meeting, proposes a 36,100-square-foot storage area on the property, hours of operation from 6 a.m to 6 p.m., with several trucks entering and exiting the site each day, according to the planning board’s site report. 

Four total acres of the site would be disturbed for the project, according to Radtke’s environmental assessment form.

Radtke told the zoning board on Feb. 16 that he leases a yard in Latham and is looking to move some of that equipment to Guilderland. The property in Latham is due to be developed in a couple of years and Radtke will eventually be losing that lease, he said, but he told the zoning board he would be looking for another property in Latham, “so all my Dumpsters are not ever going to sit on the property here in Guilderland.”

Radtke’s family is developing the land in Latham.

The Radtke Family Limited Partnership is the owner of the property where Radtke stores his equipment: 415 Old Niskayuna Road in Latham.

Radtke’s father currently has a proposal before the Town of Colonie Planning Board that would merge another two parcels owned by the family partnership with three other Niskayuna Road properties owned by two Radtke family-affiliated limited-liability corporations into one 13-acre lot on which six warehouses totaling 176,400 square feet would be built. 

Project engineer Daniel Hershberg told Colonie Planning Board members in April 2021 that “there are no designated tenants” for the proposed space, and “that these are actually being built on spec.” The project hasn’t been back before the Colonie board since last April. 

Radtke told the Guilderland zoning board on Feb. 16 he owns over 100 Dumpsters, but “they’re not all sitting on my property at once.” He said that, “at any given point,” between half and three-quarters are in use. The “majority of my Dumpsters will somewhat stay in Latham, New York, as well as on sites,” Radtke said, but a tractor trailer he uses to transport heavy equipment and dump trucks he rents out would be left overnight in Guilderland. 

Board member Elizabeth Lott said, based on Radtke’s description of his work, “It just sounds like there might be a lot of driving around on this road in Guilderland, is that correct?”

Radtke answered, “No, not at all. That’s where everybody’s getting confused.”

First thing in the morning, “I’ll show up to my yard and I’ll get my truck and leave. You might not see me coming back until five o’clock at night,” said Radtke, stating that he has to pick up Dumpsters at sites all over the area, and that he goes from the site to the dump and on to the next site, repeating the process throughout the day. 

Alternate board member Stephen Albert asked Radtke if equipment sales would be part of his business, to which Radtke answered they would. 

Board members appeared surprised by the answer. 

“I’m looking at his website and he sells construction equipment,” Albert said.

Chairman Thomas Remmert said, “OK, so that’s a little bit [of] a different use then.”

He said the board would have to “look at that” because, when it grants a special-use permit, it limits what can be done on a site, “so we want to make sure we cover everything that could be possible there.”

Addressing Albert’s in-meeting observation, Radtke said, “So pretty much everything I have is for sale. I’m constantly buying a piece [of equipment], using it, and I sell it.” Radtke said he won’t be operating a storefront on Frederick Road. “It’s just my equipment that I have,” she said. “I constantly have [it] for sale.”

Radtke would also be using the Frederick Road site to screen and then sell topsoil. Chief Building and Zoning Inspector Jacqueline Coons said Highway Superintendent Greg Weir had “already signed off on the proposed quantity and weight of the trucks that are going to utilize the town roads, Frederick Road, and then any connecting town roads.”

Coons added, “And other than that, screening of topsoil is a permitted use in the zone, as is mining and excavation, and that is a use that is part of the mining excavation.”

 

Public hearing

During public-comment session, which stretched the Feb. 16 meeting until 10 p.m., approximately a dozen residents called in to voice what were largely concerns with the proposal, chiefly its impact on area drinking water and the safety of nearby residents. 

The zoning board elected to keep the public hearing open. 

Barry Bablin, who lives on Frederick Road, spoke first, saying of Radtke’s proposing a project in a residential area, “We have kids, the high school has their track team run out in the streets. A lot of the residents walk the road here,” which isn’t “geared for big, heavy trucks.”

Bablin also said having tractor trailers running through the neighborhood is going to lower property values. 

Meadowdale Road resident Tony Rigosu said between 1143 and 1154 Meadowdale, there are eight children under the age of 10.  “As you know, they have a community bus,” Rigosu said, so there are likely to be children crossing the road between 6:40 and 7:10 a.m., which is around the same time Radtke said a lot of his trucks would be on the local roads. 

Meadowdale Road resident Yvette Terplak said her main concern is that she and a neighbor have shallow wells. “My well is 18 feet deep,” she said. Terplak was concerned about contaminated runoff from Radtke’s Dumpsters making its way into her drinking water. 

She also said she worried about the noise that would be emanating from the site. 

Radtke said he used to be Terplak’s neighbor, and said the equipment he’d be using would be no different than what he used when he cleared his property when they were neighbors. 

Addressing Terplak’s concern about debris runoff getting into her drinking water and an earlier concern about kids in the neighborhood, Radtke said, “You can have my word, I’m definitely not going to do anything that contaminates your property with what I’m doing, or jeopardize the kids running down the street because I have three young kids as well.”

Bob Rudd lives directly across Frederick Road from the proposed project site. 

He said his “first concern is that I never received notice that this whole project was taking place. I was fortunate that one of my neighbors gave me the notice.”

Rudd said the proposed location of Radtke’s storage agea is on the highest part of the property. And it is directly above the people” on Meadowdale Road, who “were just talking about the shallow wells.” Rudd didn’t “see how Mr. Radtke can” make the guarantee he made to his former neighbor about not contaminating her well. 

Later in the meeting, Coons addressed the notification issue. 

She said the mailers sent to neighbors are a courtesy; what’s required by law is the notice is published in a newspaper with general circulation in the town five days before the meeting. 

But Coons went on to explain that the software used to identify which addresses should be notified has “a lot of difficulty with these larger parcels” because the mapping system measures 500 feet out (the town’s notification range) from the center of a parcel. 

That’s not an issue when the property is a residential lot with a typical 100-by-150-foot dimension; most neighbors are notified. But it can become a problem with the town’s “odd-shaped rural lots that can be 1,000 feet deep by a couple hundred feet wide,” Coons said, as was the case for the residents of Frederick and Meadowdale Roads. 

Coons said, “We’re doing the best that we can to generate a list from a system that we’re provided. And sometimes there’s incomplete data.”

Husband and wife Nancy and Elliott Greene are Radtke’s current neighbors on Meadowdale Road and called in separately with a preview of what Frederick Road residents can expect. 

Nancy Greene said that, for the past couple of years, Radtke has been using his personal property, “right across the street from us,” to store “a lot” of equipment he’s now proposing to store on Frederick Road. 

Nancy Greene said her home is “very close to the road, so we hear quite often the large trucks, we have visible Dumpsters.” She said Radtke works six days a week, and that “he’s out first thing Saturday morning in some commercial vehicle.”

She said she “can’t imagine that it’s going to be any different for the residents that are near Frederick Road,” only it will be more commercial vehicles, Dumpsters, and the addition of a soil-sorting operation. 

Nancy Greene said a number of letters of opposition were sent at the last minute; she attributed their lateness to the waiving of required placards usually posted at a property to notify neighbors there’s a public hearing being held on a special-use permit application before the zoning board. 

Elliott Greene said, “We moved here to enjoy the aesthetics of the Helderbergs, the escarpment, the beautiful area out here. And what do we have for the past year and a half? We have Ben Radtke’s Dumpster, at least one or more, across the street from us. And this is what the people are going to have up the street on Frederick.”

Two callers had generally positive things to say about Radtke and his proposal. 

Tracy Mance of Persimmon Drive called in to say she had done business with B&B Containers herself and found Radtke was “extremely professional” and “extremely responsible.”

Connie Styno, another Meadowdale resident, said Radtke’s trucks are not as loud as the trucks that travel on Meadowdale Road carrying packages or heating oil. “I really have not heard his trucks going down the road to be honest with you,” she said.

Responding to Rigosu’s comment about children waiting for the bus, Styno said Radtke has three small children of his own, “so I cannot see him endangering any child,” especially when his own children also get the bus. 

Elliot Greene countered Styno’s observation about Radtke’s trucks.

“We do hear the noise from the trucks,” he said, adding he thought Styno might be a relative of Radtke and that her opinion may be biased. 

 Connie A. Radtke, now known as Connie Styno, is Bernard Radtke’s aunt.

 

County says disapprove project

The Albany County Planning Board said the application should be disapproved, meaning now four of five town zoning board members, rather than a simple majority of three, have to vote in favor of the project for it to pass. 

Remmert took issue with a few of the opinions laid out in the county planning board’s recommendation, the first which said: “All future referral applications for special use permit are required to include an official drawing that is to scale and prepared by a licensed professional.”

Remmert said, “That’s talking about future submissions, why it’s in this person’s application, I don’t know. If that’s a communication they want to make to the town of Guilderland, I think that should be done outside of the recommendation ….”

Remmert read the next item he didn’t agree with: “The site is a vacant farmland and a[n] agricultural residential zone. Proposed use is storage of commercial roll-off containers and heavy equipment resulting in a commercial use. The applicant should be required to apply to the Town of New Scotland for a use variance for the proposed use.” 

“Well, number one: This is the town of Guilderland, not the town of New Scotland,” Remmert said; it appeared what he had just read had been cut and pasted from another recommendation.

Remmert then said the county planning board was “once again” trying to “usurp” the zoning board’s authority by stating the project should be required to apply for a use variance as well — Radtke doesn’t need a variance because town code allows his proposed use with the granting of a special-use permit in that particular area of town. 

“The determination of whether a use is allowed in a zone is solely falls to this board, as was noted by Judge Peter Lynch in his opinion on the Costco case,” Remmert said.

More Guilderland News

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  • Neil Sanders, always speaking in measured tones with ready explanations for sometimes thorny questions, shepherded the district through the Great Recession in 2008 and 2009 when Guilderland cut over 100 jobs but did not suffer a budget defeat. His advice as another recession looms on the horizon: “It all goes back to being a team effort. Everybody’s got to be part of that discussion and process.”

  • At their June meeting, Guilderland School Board members passed, without discussion, two measures to pay tax reimbursements totaling about $3.1 million.

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