Bender Sale Stalled

By David S. Lewis

NEW SCOTLAND – While the Bender melon farm sits in limbo, the town’s supervisor supports a building moratorium as developers try to close on the 179-acre property.

The property, located at the intersection of routes 85 and 85A in New Scotland, is being purchased by the Sphere Group for commercial development.  The sale was scheduled to close on Monday, but according to Sphere Group lawyer Kathleen Bennett, the process hit a snag due to “title issues” and the closing has been postponed. 

At the town board’s special meeting last Wednesday, many citizens called for a moratorium that would halt commercial development and give the town a chance to review its zoning laws, which currently allow for any kind of commercial development, including big box developments being  considered for the Bender site.  Town Supervisor Thomas Dolin encouraged a moratorium at that meeting. 

This week Dolin repeated his conviction.  “I am personally strongly in favor of a moratorium,” he said.  “I’m suggesting that the proposed moratorium law be for six months and that it prohibit any commercial development in excess of 30,000 square feet, and I am proposing we have a public hearing on April 30.” While the board had not yet seen the proposal, Dolin said it would be posted on the town’s website Friday.   The date was set for the end of the month because both the town’s planning boards for both the town and Albany County were entitled to comment on the proposal.

“We cannot actually adopt a moratorium until we’ve heard back from both of them,” said Dolin, who also said that neither planning board has veto power over such a proposal. 

At Wednesday’s session Dolin mentioned a sketch of a plan for the development had been shown to him and other representatives at an “informal” meeting between the Sphere Group and representatives of the town board on March 13, but that the sketch was small and not professionally done. 

Paul Cantlin, building inspector and chief zoning administrator for the town of New Scotland, was also shown the drawing.

“It was really just some lines on a piece of paper that showed where a parking lot might be, some other lines that showed where a road could go…nothing you would show your mother,” said Cantlin. 

According to Bennett, the sketch isn’t available to the public because the sketch wasn’t technically submitted to the board.  She said that the Sphere Group didn’t meet with the entire board because it would have violated the states Open Meeting Law, which require the public to be notified of any meeting where a quorum of the board is present. 

“In trying to be good developers and in trying to work with the town, they wanted to get some feedback from the town before they submitted an application.  They were looking for some feedback so that, when they did submit an application, it would hopefully be met with a more positive response,” said Bennett; she said. While the meetings were held with individual members of the board, she said it was not an attempt to leave the public out of the process.  The Sphere Group has not disclosed the final purchase price of the farm, nor the specific reason for the delay in closing.

Although the 179-acre farm is assessed at $734,700, the asking price is $4 million, Platform Realty, which is handling the sale, said earlier.  The property is owned by a group of doctors who are listed as MLF Enterprises, said Robert Murphy, vice president of Platform Realty.

Supervisor Dolin said that, while “speaking as a layman”, it would not make sense to have costly engineering done for a development concept that would not be within the legal guidelines of a town, or supported by the infrastructure and roads in place.  He agreed that nothing had been done to intentionally leave the citizens out of the loop.

“This is important, and I want the public involved in this,” said Dolin.  He also said that he had not organized the meeting in March but that he attended because he wanted to be aware of any commercial developments being considered for the town.

More New Scotland News

  • Voorheesville Superintendent Frank Macri noted not everything on the previous five-year condition survey got done. “I know we looked at two five-year [surveys] previously,” he said, “and there were still things that were on those five-year plans that weren’t accomplished … So just because they’re on a five-year plan doesn’t mean they have to get finished.”

  •  “They say 83.28-percent complete,” Councilman William Hennessy said during the Jan. 12 town board meeting of the Hilton Barn’s new slate roof. “Whereas they’re really more like probably 90-percent done.”

  • Recent testing showed the nitrate level in the Clarksville Water District supply had dropped from 11.3 milligrams per liter in late November to about 5.4 milligrams per liter on Dec. 30.

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