Guilderland IDA kicking in $50K for town’s new comp plan

The Enterprise — Elizabeth Floyd Mair
Seated at the IDA board table are, from left: Linda Cure, administrative assistant; Christopher Bombardier, treasurer and assistant secretary; Donald Csaposs, chief executive officer; and Kelly Flanagin, member.

GUILDERLAND — The Guilderland Industrial Development Agency has agreed to assist the town with $50,000 in funding to help cover a portion of what’s estimated to be a $200,000 update to Guilderland’s 2001 Comprehensive Plan.
Supervisor Peter Barber made the request in a July 6 letter to the IDA.

Barber’s letter stated, “For the first step in this anticipated two-year process, the Capital District Regional Planning Commission recently provided the Town with ‘Town of Guilderland Demographic and Growth Analysis, 1990-2020,’ which provides background on housing growth and characteristics, demographic composition, population, diversity, education, and economic overview.”

The commission’s study was received in June. 

Barber’s July 6 letter went on to say the town would apply for a Smart Growth Program grant through the New York Department of State to help defray more of the project’s cost. 

The town board on June 21 OK’d the issuing of a request for proposals to solicit bids from consultants interested in running the town’s comprehensive planning process. Bids are due July 29; the contract is due to be awarded Aug. 18, according to the RFP.

Barber told members of the IDA on July 26 that he hoped Guilderland could pick up where it left off two years ago, when the town was readying itself to undertake the update process, but was hit by a pandemic.

The plan was last updated in 2001, Barber said, adding that the plan also called for a series of additional neighbor-level studies that weren’t completed until sometime in 2016-17. 

IDA attorney A. Joseph Scott was then asked by board members to summarize a letter he submitted in response to Barber’s July 6 request. 

“There is quite a bit of commentary, if you will, and opinions, and rulings on legitimate IDA activity, and activity that is not legitimate,” Scott said. “And so, I think it is good practice to give some thought before entering into some sort of arrangement, to double check to make sure that, in fact, we’re authorized to do so.”

The IDA is authorized to grant that type of request, he said.

In the resolution he’d prepared for the board, Scott said he’d laid out a number of suggested findings that indicates it is well within the charge of the IDA to assist the town financially with the comprehensive plan update.

“And those findings are all consistent with past practice of the IDA,” Scott said. “And also consistent with the statute governing the IDA, including outlining the powers and purposes of the IDA.”

IDA Chairwoman Shelly Johnston said, “So the IDA funds may be used to advance the agency’s mission and public purpose. And we all agree on that. And our mission is to assist in the enhancement and diversity of the economy of the town.”

Johnston said the IDA works to promote private-sector investment, which in turn helps to create or maintain employment opportunities. And one of the objectives of the comprehensive plan is to consider economic development 

“So I think our mission is consistent with one of the objectives of the comprehensive plan,” she said, and with the update in general. 

Former town board and current IDA board member Paul Pastore said, “Dare I say that maybe certain uninformed individuals might be critical of the fact that the town hasn’t necessarily engaged in the updating of the comprehensive plan,” in over 20 years. 

He then noted the numerous neighborhood studies — nine, according to the town — that had been conducted in the two decades since the adoption of the 2001 comprehensive plan. Pastore said, if the IDA were “to determine that it’s well within our discretion” to pay for a portion of the comprehensive plan, the carryover effect could extend into “any sort of neighborhood plan” update.

Donald Csaposs, the chief executive of the IDA who is also the town’s grant writer, said the cost of the individual neighborhood studies hadn’t been included as part of the 2001 comprehensive plan’s $13o,000 price tag. But he pointed out that five of the studies were 75-percent funded by a program administered by the Capitol District Transportation Commission.

This turned out to be a very good thing for the town, Csaposs said, because those five studies cost more than double what Guilderland had paid for its comprehensive plan:

— The Westmere Corridor Study, $68,000;

— The Fort Hunter and Carman Road Transportation Plan, $45,000;

— The Route 20 Corridor Study, $32,000;

 — The Guilderland Center Hamlet Master Plan, $30,800; and 

— The Railroad Avenue Corridor Study, $50,000.

On the town’s $50,000 ask for the plan update, Csaposs said, “We certainly have the resources to fund this request.” The chairman said for the last several years the IDA has had a specific $50,000 line item in its budget earmarked for community engagement activity, “which would include this.”

Board member William Smart wondered if there’d be an opportunity for someone from the IDA to join the comprehensive plan update committee. 

Barber told Smart a July 26 email sent to residents informing them about the opportunity to join the update committee “also made clear” the group would be a nine-member board; however, there would be opportunities to serve on subcommittees focused on specific concerns. 

Barber said the 2001 comprehensive plan committee, which he had been part of as the town’s zoning board chairman, had over 30 residents. “[It] was cumbersome,” Barber said of having so many committee members. 

However, Barber said to Smart, “The answer to your question is ‘yes’; anybody on this committee could apply.” But he added, “Whether we’re looking for a particular member from each of the [existing town] boards or committees — pretty quickly, you start eating up those nine” seats on the plan’s update committee. 

More Guilderland News

  • The tax rate for Guilderland residents will go up 4.84 percent rather than the 2.98 percent predicted last spring. This is because the taxable valuation in town decreased by nearly $80 million from the $4 billion estimated in April. So Guilderland residents will pay $18.20 per $1,000 of their property’s assessment.

  • The study looked at 30 years of development, demographic, and economic trends in town, and arrived at the conclusion that, generally speaking, development has declined in the years since the town last updated its comprehensive plan.

  • At their June meeting, Guilderland School Board members passed, without discussion, two measures to pay tax reimbursements totaling about $3.1 million.

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