Board hears pros and cons of adopting a moratorium

Enterprise file photo

The Watervliet Reservoir, Guilderland’s major source of drinking water, is taxed in summer months, which is one of the reasons the town is proposing a six-month moratorium on large residential development.

GUILDERLAND — The handful of people who spoke to the Guilderland Town Board at Tuesday’s hearing on a proposed moratorium were about equally divided.

The board did not vote on the proposal because it has yet to be reviewed by the county’s planning board. Although the hearing was closed, public comments will be accepted until the May 7 meeting when the town board is slated to vote on the matter.

To encourage affordable housing and also to protect the town’s water quality and quantity, the bill says, the town board is proposing a six-month moratorium on subdivisions of five or more lots, apartment complexes of 25 or more units, and residential care facilities of 50 or more units.

The bill outlines exceptions that the board may make for “extraordinary hardship” and says the moratorium may be extended for another six months.

Board members have said previously that adopting a moratorium would give them a chance to draft any legislation recommended by a committee that is working to update the town’s two-decades-old comprehensive plan.

Supervisor Peter Barber opened the April 16 hearing by stressing that the moratorium would not impact commercial development.

He also noted memos of support for the moratorium from the town’s planner, saying it “would give an opportunity to take a look at measures to encourage affordable housing,” and from the town’s water department, “so they can look at both water capacity and water pressure issues.”

Barber said, while there is “no emergency,” water use spikes in the summer months and the water department wants “to make sure they have a good plan in place going forward.”

 

Against

The director of the Guilderland Chamber of Commerce and the chief executive officer of the Guilderland Industrial Development Agency both argued against the moratorium along with a business owner and a resident.

Cassie Zieno said she moved to Guilderland several years ago because “it was affordable for a young person looking to buy their first home.” She went on, “Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy to buy a home or to be able to afford rent.”

She argued that the moratorium would “make housing in the town more unaffordable for the next generation, ensuring many kids in Guilderland schools today won’t be able to afford to stay in the town they grew up in.”

Zieno also said, “It’s the young people and it’s people of color who disproportionately really reside in multi-family homes in this town. I want my town to welcome these communities with open arms. Please don’t forget them.”

Sandra Dollard, the chamber’s director, said, “We have tools in the toolbox to stop any unwanted construction in this area that doesn’t follow the codes.”

Dollard said that Guilderland lacked workforce housing and affordable housing. “But more importantly,” she said, “we do not want to become known as a hostile community.”

Donald Csaposs, CEO of the Industrial Development Agency who works as the town’s grant writer, stressed that he was speaking solely as a resident.

“The moratorium sends a negative message to the area’s development community,” Csaposs said. “It says we’re closed, shut down.”

He called the moratorium “anti-labor” and against the governor’s push to solve the state’s housing crisis and said “there’s been no public sentiment in favor of a moratorium” but rather a “small number of people have complained loud and long.”

Csaposs, too, said that the town’s decision-making bodies already have “all the authority they need to reject the development proposals that they deem inappropriate,” and cited the zoning board’s recent rejection of a proposed halal market.

Jonathan Phillips, a Guilderland resident who owns a hardware store in town, said business owners are in need of employees and it is hard to find housing in town.

Phillips spoke of the need “to keep growing our tax revenue and growing our community to be stronger.”

He added that the word “moratorium” “does mean death — and that doesn’t sound like a very happy community.”

 

For

Guilderland resident Gerd Beckmann stepped to the microphone simply to read a definition of the word “moratorium”: A temporary suspension of an activity or law until future consideration warrants lifting the suspension, such as if and when the issues that led to the moratorium had been resolved or understood.

“I don’t see the word ‘death’ — just an observation,” said Beckmann.

“Moratorium” comes from the Latin morari, which means “to delay” unlike, for example “mortgage,” which comes from the Latin mortuus for “dead.”

“I have to disagree with what everybody said before me,” said Robyn Gray, who heads the Guilderland Coalition for Responsible Growth and has been pushing the town board to adopt a moratorium for months.

“If you want to build and you want to grow the town, you’ve got to have the infrastructure in order to serve that,” said Gray.

She also said that many developers had promised market-rate housing but, she said, “They’re not market-rate; they’re high-end — so that’s not meeting the needs we have in terms of affordable housing, senior housing, workforce housing.”

Guilderland resident Karen White said, “We need this pause to reassess the infrastructure situation in general.”

White went on, “We also have hundreds of apartments coming online. They’re ready to be rented now. They’re already constructed and they’re just waiting for people to occupy them.”

In addition to calculating the water and sewer needs for these new homes, White also raised increased traffic as a concern.

Iris Broyde, a Westmere resident, said she wanted “to speak to the comments about trusting the tools that we have.”

She argued, “I think it’s important to trust the officials that we’ve put in charge of assessing our town’s infrastructure, like the manager of the water and sewer and our town planner.”

If the town has inadequate water or sewer services, Broyde asked, “How welcoming is that going to be for people buying homes or looking to move here, knowing that these infrastructure problems that are here, present, and growing?”

 

Other comments

John Haluska, a Guilderland resident who frequently points out eyesores in town, was the first to speak at the April 16 hearing. He wanted to be sure that three projects in town would not be stopped by a moratorium.

One project involves the properties owned by Charles Bohl Inc. at 2298 through 2314 Western Avenue, a string of unoccupied buildings including a former dry cleaner, which has been declared a brownfield by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

Major shareholder Theresa Bohl had told the board at its last meeting that she has a “quality buyer” interested in the properties “with full eyes open,” and she was assured by the board that the Bohl project, already in the pipeline, would not be stopped by the moratorium.

The other two projects Haluska brought up also have applications already filed so won’t be paused by the moratorium: a proposal to build self-storage units at 2360 Western Ave. where the house next to the M&M Motel burned, and a projet at Fuller Station and Carman roads to build small homes.

Several written comments were also submitted to the board.

Guilderland resident Jerry Houser wrote in opposition to the moratorium, arguing it would delay the completion of the updating of the town’s comprehensive plan.

Jamie Zieno, an alternate member of the town’s zoning board, also wrote in opposition to the moratorium, citing a national and regional housing shortage. 

While commending the town for applying to become a “Pro-Housing Community,” part of a state program to increase housing, Zieno cautioned that a moratorium “is in direct contradiction to the intent of the pro-housing program.”

He also wrote, “More broadly, I’m afraid a moratorium will put a giant ‘closed’ sign on the town of Guilderland. By passing this moratorium, you are telling every builder in the state, ‘don’t come to our town.’”

Finally, Kenneth Barth, vice president of Carver Construction Inc., wrote about the application made in 2022 for Barth Meadows, a 42-lot, single-family, cluster subdivision on 87 acres between Posson Road and Route 146 in Guilderland.

Barth was seeking confirmation that the moratorium would not affect his project.

 

Other business

In other business at its April 16 meeting, the Guilderland Town Board:

— Agreed to swap about six acres with the Northeastern Industrial Park to build a new tower to train volunteer firefighters;

— Awarded a contract to SRI Fire Sprinkler, the sole bidder, to install a fire-sprinkler system for $89,900 at the town’s new ambulance station;

— Modified the town’s 2024 budget to authorize spending $150,000 to finish the new emergency medical services station, “which is still under budget,” said Barber;

— Adopted two resolutions as part of the State Environmental Quality Review Act, stating that park improvements would not have any significant environmental impacts.

The Fort Hunter park, for $125,00, will get a pavilion, playground improvements, a replaced backstop, and a resurfaced parking area. The DiCaprio park, for $125,000, will have a new playground constructed. Barber said that Assemblyman Phil Steck had sponsored the grants;

— Heard that residents can anonymously drop off unused prescription drugs for safe disposal from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 27 at the Guilderland Public Library’s upper lot;

— Heard that the Guilderland Recycling Extravaganza will also be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 27 at the Farnsworth Middle School parking lot;

— Heard that a town-wide clean-up day will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on April 27. More information is available by emailing gallupcj@togny.org;

— Heard that a Neighborhood Watch meeting will be held at Guilderland Town Hall on Thursday, April 30, at 6:30 p.m. in which neighbors will get together to talk about crime prevention, Barber said; and

— Heard that Captain Eric Batchelder is retiring after 22 years with the Guilderland Police. A walk-out ceremony will be held on Friday, April 26, at 2 p.m. at the town hall.

“Eric is a very kind and very wonderful person … really irreplaceable,” said Barber.

“He has held that job with grace under fire and holds the respect of those in the rank and file ….,” said Councilwoman Amanda Beedle. “The town is going to sorely miss him.”

More Guilderland News

  • “With 80 percent of our clientele hailing from beyond Schoharie County — particularly from Albany, Saratoga Springs and Schenectady — expanding our business was a logical step,” said  Apple Barrel Group Chief Operating Officer Joshua Loden-Bray. 

  • The anniversary worship service starts at 11 a.m. in the church at 2291 Western Ave. followed by a luncheon in Fellowship Hall at 12:15 p.m. The Buena Comida taco truck will also be out in the church’s parking lot. Guilderland’s town historian, Mary Ellen Johnson, will speak in the sanctuary at 1 p.m. on the church’s history.

  • To encourage affordable housing and also to protect the town’s water quality and quantify, the law says, there is a six-month moratorium on subdivisions of five or more lots, apartment complexes of 25 or more units, and residential care facilities of 50 or more units.

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.