A new land-use plan is coming to New Scotland, but will it have teeth?

NEW SCOTLAND — With residential development pressing in on several fronts and commercial development knocking on the door, the town of New Scotland is updating its comprehensive land-use plan.

Central to the vision for the plan is maintaining the town’s rural character and encouraging development in the already existing hamlets.

That’s pretty much the same goal that was stated in the town’s current comprehensive plan, which was issued in 1994.

“It’s hard to argue with a vision statement that says, ‘We like Mom and apple pie,’” said Jeff Baker, who is chairman of New Scotland’s zoning board and sits on the committee to update the comprehensive plan.

The question is whether or not the town will overhaul its zoning code to reflect the goals of the comprehensive plan when it’s complete. New York State law enacted in 1993 says that zoning codes must agree with a town’s comprehensive plan.

Right now, New Scotland’s zoning code doesn’t do that — it is out of step with much of the 1994 plan. That discord was highlighted by a proposal for a Target-anchored shopping mall on 179-acres of old farmland at the corner of routes 85 and 85A in 2008.

“There was kind of a hole in the zoning,” said Supervisor Douglas LaGrange, which would have allowed for the 750,000-square-foot development.


Scroll down to view the May 1994 Comprehensive Land Use Plan and the Hamlet Zoning Final Draft


The town board at the time swiftly instituted a moratorium on commercial building, then, later, passed a cap on the size of retail buildings and the proposal withered, but not before igniting huge controversy over the fate of that land and the larger implications for how New Scotland would develop in the future.

Following that debate, the town undertook a major study of the routes 85 and 85A corridor that has resulted in a 42-page report issued earlier this year that recommends changing the zoning on and around the old farm for mixed-use development.

It envisions a small, dense, village-like development near the intersection of those two main thoroughfares with less intense development around it and preserved open spaces.

That type of planning could serve as a model for other areas of town, depending on what kind of comments come in from the public for the updated comprehensive plan.

The update committee, along with the engineering and planning firm Barton and Loguidice, is holding public forums in different parts of town to gather input.

The second of those was held on Tuesday in Clarksville — about half a dozen people showed up. The third forum is scheduled for tonight, June 22, at 6 p.m. at the New Salem fire house, and the fourth is scheduled for June 26 at 6 p.m. at the town hall.

The committee is also considering conducting a town-wide survey of residents’ thoughts on land-use planning, said committee Chairwoman Christine Galvin.

New Scotland contracted with Barton and Loguidice to consult on updating the plan for $20,000 — half of that amount is covered by a grant from the Hudson River Valley Greenway.

Those grants are available for projects that consider regional planning, natural and cultural resource protection, economic development, public access, and heritage and environmental education.

The New Scotland committee is using an Environmental Protection Agency manual for encouraging “smart growth,” or clustered, mixed-use development in rural communities to guide its update of the comprehensive plan.

That kind of development, and the zoning code that enables it, is favored by many urban planners today, rather than the zoning that dominated development in the last century, called Euclidean zoning, named for the United States Supreme Court case that enshrined it in the American landscape. Also called single-use zoning, it segregated zoning districts by use — keeping separate commercial, residential, and industrial buildings — which fosters driving-dependent communities and sprawl.

“It’s been a long haul to try to reform and it’s still in the early stages,” said Todd Fabozzi, director of sustainability for the Capital District Regional Planning Commission.

The committee in New Scotland is still gathering public comments and the town board will hold public hearings before it adopts the new plan, which LaGrange hopes to do by the end of the year.

After that, he said, the town will begin considering changes to the zoning code.


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