Public comment open until May 26 on Pyramid’s Guilderland projects

GUILDERLAND — After a four-and-three-quarters-hour public hearing on Pyramid’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement for its Rapp Road and Western Avenue projects, there was little else the Guilderland Planning Board could do than call it a night and leave public comment open on the proposal until May 26.

The planning board is next scheduled to meet on May 27. 

Letters submitted in advance of the public hearing favored the project by a 3.5-to-1 margin, with 279 letters in support and 79 opposed — while three letters were neutral. 

Nearly 100 public comments were called into the planning board on Wednesday, with a majority of the speakers supporting the project.

The draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) is intended to outline the scope of future development in the area around Crossgates Mall. 

The DEIS examines three sites within the Transit-Oriented Development District:

— The first site is a 19-acre plot of land at Rapp and Gipp roads where 222 apartments or townhouses are proposed to be built; the DEIS leaves the door open for another 90 apartments on Site 1;

— Site 2 is 16 acres of land located at the intersection of Crossgates Mall Road and Western Avenue for which Pyramid proposes to build a 160,000-square-foot Costco, a membership-only warehouse club, that would offer gasoline service and 700 parking spots; and

— Between Site 2 and the Hilton Hotel built by Pyramid in 2019, is the 11.3-acre Site 3. There are no current development plans for land; however Pyramid did include in its DEIS a zoning-complaint conceptual plan for a Transit Oriented Development District that could include 115,000 square feet of retail, 50,000 square feet for office space, and 48 apartments. 

Arguments made in public comment opposed to the project centered around traffic, the issues faced by Westmere residents, and the environment, as evidenced by all the reports submitted by the public, and various studies of Pine Bush flora and fauna.

One Westmere resident who would be directly impacted by Pyramid’s proposal, pointed out out that the project is more than just Costco; the proposed 222-apartment complex would be a determinant to the existing neighborhood.

A separate Westmere resident said people who were speaking in favor of the project clearly lived nowhere near it; otherwise they would oppose it.

Arguments in favor of the project were largely based around expanding the town’s tax base and adding jobs amid uncertain times. 

A town resident pointed out that many of the letters in favor of the project were written by out-of-towners and employees of Crossgates tenants, who were all touting the same reason for the project — jobs and sales-tax revenue.

An economic impact analysis performed by the consulting firm Camoin 310 said that a new big-box retailer would be responsible for the creation of nearly 190 new jobs and and would yield Guilderland an additional $157,516 in sales-tax revenue, with an estimated $1,845,892 going toward Albany County.

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