MRD decision to wait another month in Knox

KNOX — A planned vote on a proposed multi-use recreational district was postponed until next month, following a public hearing in which six Knox residents spoke against the district.

Supervisor Vasilios Lefkaditis said he wants to formulate responses to some of the statements made at the Aug. 13 meeting. He did not return a call for comment this week.

The supervisor had originally proposed a business district in the area around routes 156 and 157, which failed twice to pass a town board vote in 2017. Currently The town has only one business district, in the Knox hamlet.

After residents criticized the proposed business district, Lefkaditis pulled that proposal and instead proposed a multi-use recreational district, or MRD, for the same area. He said that it answered residents concerns about well-water contamination because an MRD would exclude businesses like dry cleaners and gas stations.

Knox currently has just one MRD, located in the southwestern corner of town.

Because the Albany County Planning Board voted to disapprove of the proposed MRD, the town board may now approve of the district only with a supermajority vote, or four of the five board members, according to state law.

The six people who spoke during last week’s public hearing on the proposed MRD were all against the measure.

Brigitte McAuliffe, who with her husband filed a complaint last year with the New York State Attorney General’s Office against the town board over its vote to move forward on the MRD, asked what the purpose of the district would be given proposed changes to the town’s regulations on home businesses that would ease some of the current restrictions.

The McAuliffes’ property was removed from the proposed district at their request. Other residents of the proposed district made similar requests and had their lands removed.

At the hearing, Brigitte McAuliffe described the district as “textbook spot-zoning.”

Amy Pokorny, a former Democratic councilwoman who ran unsuccessfully in 2017 against Lefkaditis for supervisor, spoke about other things the town could do that, she said, would better promote business, such as establishing an economic-development committee or working with local tourism groups.

Her husband, Russell Pokorny, the exiting town assessor who himself is running for supervisor this year, read from the last recommendation by the Albany County Planning Board. In addition to not approving of the MRD, the county board had recommended updating the town’s comprehensive plan; looking into needed infrastructure; and making sure the MRD wouldn’t conflict with any agricultural districts, which are issued by the county and are not part of town zoning.

“Not sure if any of that was done,” Russell Pokorny said. “But they’re recommending it be done.”

Resident Paul Scilopoti said that, looking to other more developed towns like Guilderland, he was worried about businesses springing up in residential areas and “rampant development.”

Jean Gagnon, a former Democratic town justice who was voted out of office two years ago when Lefkaditis and his fellow candidates running on the GOP line took all open positions, expressed concerns about pollution and potential accidents at the intersection within the proposed district.

Later during the regular board meeting, as the board broached voting on the MRD, which was listed on the meeting agenda, Lefkaditis said he would like to respond to some of the comments made during the public hearing. He asked if the rest of the board would consider voting on the proposal next month.

“It’s gone on this long,” said Councilman Karl Pritchard. “What’s another month?”

Other business

In addition, the board also:

— Heard from Lefkaditis that single-stream recycling costs have continued to increase, to $88.45 a ton, after once costing nothing;

— Discussed implementing a blight law that was passed a year ago. Lefkaditis said that the town’s building inspector, Daniel Sherman, needed to review parts of the law with interim town attorney Javid Afzali;

— Discussed resealing and painting stripes in the town-hall parking lot, with an estimated cost of about $3,100;

— Reviewed a proposed change to the town’s zoning ordinance that would more easily allow pigs to be raised on farms in Knox. The board has yet to draft a bill and agreed to draft and review such legislation next month before setting a public-hearing date;

— Discussed the process of being awarded a Clean Energy Communities grant from the state, originally obtained through Amy Pokorny’s work; she asked about the grant at the meeting. Lefkaditis said that the town is now being monitored to determine its energy use; and 

— Reviewed, after an inquiry by Amy Pokorny, the possibility of participating in a Community Choice Aggregation initiative, in which the town would be able to purchase electricity from renewable sources in bulk for residents. Lefkaditis said that next month there will be a presentation on the initiative; the town has until the end of October to apply, he said.


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