Napierski and McDonald will represent residents rather than developers

To the Editor:
I will be voting for Kevin McDonald and Christine Napierski in the June 22 primary.

Town board members are responsible for making appointments to the planning and zoning boards as well as approving positions such as the town planner. Those boards make decisions that are crucial to our quality of life.

Some of these decisions may seem small, but each one sets a precedent for the next developer, who can point to it as a reason why he or she should be granted the same special treatment.

We need planning and zoning board members who will not suggest to developers that they should make their projects larger — in violation of the town’s zoning code — and ask for a variance. In my opinion, we also need a town planner who cares about the voice of the residents rather than being a spokesperson for large developers like Pyramid.

Board members make these suggestions because they know that developers have a target profitability for each project, so these boards help them squeeze a project in, even when it doesn’t reasonably fit.

At a planning board meeting on Jan. 10, 2018, engineer Joseph Bianchine presented a design for the Riitano Senior Apartments on Johnston Road to the planning board that was unable to comply with the required setbacks on each side of the building while still incorporating the number of apartments the developer wanted.

Board Chairman Stephen Feeney asked Bianchine if he had considered making the building three stories tall, and Bianchine said he had not, because it would be difficult to add a third story and stay within the town’s allowed maximum height of 35 feet.

Feeney encouraged him to draw up a plan for a three-story building taller than the town’s zoning code would allow, and go to the zoning board to apply for a variance [“Senior apartments proposed for Westmere,” The Altamont Enterprise, Feb. 1, 2018].

At a Dec. 2, 2020 meeting of the zoning board, Chairman Thomas Remmert and other board members discussed a proposal by developer Troy Miller for changes to an existing building at 2390 Western Avenue [“Guilderland ZBA approval of minor variance draws biting criticism from vocal few,” The Altamont Enterprise, Dec. 25, 2020].

Miller wanted a design that would require a three-and-a-half-foot height variance, and the zoning board members suggested that the building would look “stupid” without the additional height, and that three-and-a-half feet is “not a lot.” The board approved the variance.

It’s thanks to the zoning and planning boards that we now have a giant car wash at 2123 Western Ave., built after developers Richard and Sandra Hameroff were granted a spot rezone to allow the 90-foot-long car-wash tunnel in a location where it otherwise could not have gone; the project was also granted variances to fit it into the site [“Town Board OKs two zone changes, drawing ire,” The Altamont Enterprise, Jan. 31, 2019].

In April 2019, Laurel Bohl, who has since become a town board member, told the  zoning board, during a discussion of the Knockout Car Wash project at 2123 Western Avenue, that the town’s various boards should not consider how much profit a developer will make from a site, when making their decisions.

The boards should not grant developers variances right and left so that projects that are too big can fit into lots that are too small. “It really is up to the boards to tell the developer what fits right, in that lot, in this town,” Bohl said.

Like Bohl, Christine Napierski and Kevin McDonald will hold developers to a standard adhering to a master plan rather than allowing developers to keep shifting the standards to fit their projects. They will also represent the voice of the residents rather than exclusively the voice of the developers.

Karen Howe


Editor’s note: Karen Howe is a neighbor of Kevin McDonald on Westmere Terrace. She notes that her letter focused on many development issues in town, not on the Pyramid proposal for 222 apartment units next to Westmere Terrace.

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