McKownville firehouse gets the go-ahead, but expansion undecided

The Enterprise — Michael Koff 
Lehner Road has been abandoned as a town road and will become part of the hotel site that Pyramid Companies hopes to build on Western Avenue at the entrance to Crossgates Mall. A brick house that was located at 1637 Western Ave., at the corner of Lehner Road, has been torn down in preparation for the eventual start of construction. Pyramid Companies hopes to begin construction this year, said Jacqueline M. Coons, Guilderland’s acting chief building and zoning inspector. 

GUILDERLAND — The planning board gave site-plan approval, on June 28, to a second-story addition to the existing McKownville firehouse. The addition of a second story would allow the fire district to divide functions that must now all share the first floor and improve safety for firefighters.

After putting out a request for bids, fire district Commissioner James White told the planning board, “Our bids came back higher than our estimated costs, so we’ve got to go back and figure out what we’re going to do.” White said construction probably won’t begin until sometime in 2018.

Residents of McKownville voted in March to approve dedicating $3.2 million to the renovation project.

One approach would be to go back to the taxpayers and ask for more money, White said, but the fire district has not decided on that. Planning board member Mickey Cleary told White, “I think what needs to happen, if you need more money, you go back and get approval for more money. Don’t shortchange yourselves for what you guys are doing for our community.”

In the plan, removing interior walls will allow enlarged truck bays to occupy almost the entire first floor of the building at 1250 Western Ave. and make it possible to create a designated locker room off to one side. Currently, White said at the meeting, lockers are “crowded all around the trucks,” and trucks sometimes hit lockers. This renovation will keep the volunteer firefighters safer, White said.

The fire district currently has three trucks. It does not have a ladder truck, but if it decided to get one in the future, that truck would fit into one of the expanded bays, White said.

Offices, training rooms, and other common areas would all be located on the new second floor.

The first and second floors would both be completely compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, White said, and would include ADA-compliant restrooms.

The second story would have a dedicated training space, members’ rooms, meeting rooms, and workstations.

An exterior stairway to the second floor would be added, White said, as a backup way to exit.

Planning board Chairman Stephen Feeney noted there was not yet any parking space shown on the plan reserved for people with disabilities, and White said it was an oversight.

The board voted 7 to 0 to, first, declare that the plan would not have any negative impact on the environment, under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, and, then, to approve the site plan, with the condition that one handicapped-accessible parking spot be identified on the plans.

The board asked White if any thought had been given to reconfiguring some of the parking spots in the lot; he said it had not. Feeney handed White a sketch of the spaces and suggested that he think about changing the configuration, which both agreed is now very tight.



— Photo from Crossgates Mall General Manager J. Michael Gately
Pyramid Companies showed the planning board this rendering on June 28 of how the hotel at the entrance to Crossgates Mall would look.


Hotel at Crossgates

The proposal by Pyramid Companies, owner of Crossgates Mall, to build a hotel on Western Avenue at the entrance to the mall, made some further progress through the approval process.

At the end of May, the Industrial Development Agency granted Pyramid roughly half the tax breaks it had sought.

The town’s planning board granted Pyramid final approval of an application to rearrange and consolidate some of the lot lines at the hotel site and the mall.

The planning board then voted, 7 to 0, to recommend approval of a special-use permit for the hotel, with conditions: New York State Department of Transportation approval; town highway superintendent approval; reduction of the height of the proposed light poles from 30 to 16 feet, to comply with the town code; and installation of pedestrian countdown timers at the mall road crossing from the hotel.

As part of the discussion about the hotel, the board heard that, although the developer had hoped to move Lehner Road westward, the road that leads from Route 20 to the Crossgates Mall Ring Road will be a private driveway and not a town road. This change came from the state’s Department of Transportation, the board heard.

The DOT also decided that the private drive to the hotel at Route 20 will be exclusively for right-hand turns into the hotel.

At a zoning board meeting the following week, on July 5, the zoning board issued a negative declaration under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, said Jacqueline M. Coons, the town’s acting chief building and zoning inspector. A negative declaration means that the board believes the project will have no significant effect on the environment, so in-depth review is not needed.

Coons said that, in addition to pedestrian improvements, the board and the applicant discussed having a shuttle run between the hotel and the mall.

The next step will be, Coons said, for the town-designated engineering firm, Delaware Engineering, to make a recommendation to the zoning board.


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