Winding Brook Commons PUD proposal echoes the never-built Glass Works Village

— Sketch plan from the folder on file with Guilderland’s building department 
Winding Brook Commons: This sketch plan calls for 283 apartments in 24 two-story buildings and several office buildings. The 71 acres along Route 20 on which this would be built is mostly wooded. 

GUILDERLAND — A sketch plan has been submitted to the town for a proposed development that would combine commercial, retail, and residential space on a 71-acre parcel along the south side of Route 20 near Winding Brook Drive. The project area extends to and wraps around the YMCA, with one building on the other side of Winding Brook Drive

The plan calls for 283 apartments in 24 buildings as well as 80,500 square feet of commercial spaces including a mixed-use office building, a bank, and a restaurant.

MRP Development Company, LLC is listed on the application as the applicant and as the current owner of the land. Kenneth Kovalchik, Guilderland’s new town planner, said the developer is Tri City Rentals. Tri City Rentals owns many of the apartment complexes in Guilderland, including Woodlake, Fairwood, and Regency Park. Tri City Rentals’ general manager, Tim Owens, did not return a call asking for comment.

This project is a scaled-down version of Glass Works Village, which had been proposed by a different developer and approved in same area a decade ago, said Kovalchik. He said he believed Glass Works Village plans had called for 200,000 square feet of commercial space, where this plan proposes 80,000, and that Glass Works had proposed 360 apartments, rather than 283.

The town’s chief building and zoning inspector, Jacqueline Coons, said that Glass Works Village had been approved — and the zoning changed — but that it had included a sunset clause, which has since passed.

Kovalchik said the proposal has elements of new urbanism — the phrase that was often used to describe Glass Works Village — because it combines commercial and residential elements on the same lot. “But the true meaning of new urbanism is you kind of mix those uses into the same buildings,” Kovalchik said, noting that characteristic is lacking in this proposal, in which residential and commercial buildings are distinct and separate.

The current sketch plan does not look as though it includes a lot of open space, Kovalchik said, adding, “When you look at PUD regulations, it talks about preservation of trees and natural topography.”

Ways to reduce the density of buildings and preserve more trees and natural topography might be taken up by the town board and the planning board, he said. Kovalchik asked, hypothetically, if the developer might consider adding more height to each building, to reduce the number of buildings. “But then you get opposition from people because of the height,” he said, adding that even one more story on each building might be a way to preserve green space.

On Aug. 21, the town board appointed a town-designated engineer, CHA of Albany, to review the sketch plan and determined that the project will require a more comprehensive Type 1 review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act.

The project area comprises three parcels that are located in R15 and R40 zoning districts, Kovalchik wrote in a memo to town Supervisor Peter Barber. Both of these are single-family residential districts, with minimum lot sizes of 15,000 and 40,000 square feet.

In a letter on file with the building department, Kovalchik wrote to Joseph S. Grasso of CHA, asking him to review the details of the sketch plan with particular attention to questions including:

— Whether it provides for a variety of residential types and nonresidential uses;

— Whether it provides for efficient movement of vehicles within the site and for access into and out of the site;

— Whether buildings are far enough away from steep slopes to be safe, or whether the impact of the slopes has been mitigated sufficiently;

— Whether impacts on neighboring properties have been minimized; and

— If the plan allows for pedestrian connections, open space and outdoor amenities, and the preservation of trees and natural features.

Kovalchik had recommended choosing CHA as the town-designated engineer — although Delaware Engineering usually acts as in this role on proposed projects — because CHA is currently working on two projects in the immediate area: the Winding Brook Drive PUD application for an apartment complex of 52 units to be located further south, on the west side of Winding Brook Drive, as well as a grant-funded sidewalk project to run from Mercy Care Lane to the Hamilton Square shopping center at Route 155, a portion of which would run along in front of Winding Brook Commons.

Reasons for the Type 1 SEQR application are, Kovalchik wrote in his memo to Barber, that SEQR regulations specify the parameters under which a proposal must automatically be deemed Type 1, and this project fits several of them:

— It would bring changes in the allowable uses within the zoning districts that would affect 25 or more acres;

— It is located within a town with a population of less than 150,000 and would connect 250 units to existing community or public water and sewer; and

— It involves nonresidential construction activities that would alter 10 or more acres.

Daniel Hershberg of Hershberg and Hershberg of Albany is the designer on this and several other projects in this immediate area: Winding Brook Apartments, and the proposed Hiawatha Trails project that would build 256 independent-living apartments for people aged 55 and older in a Planned Unit Development on the site of the Hiawatha Trails Executive Golf Course across from Farnsworth Middle School.

The Hiawatha Trails land and the Winding Brook Commons land do not quite abut one another, said Kovalchik. A strip of land that he estimated at 200 or 300 feet wide, owned by the Lia family, runs from Route 20 back, dividing the two parcels.

Next steps

The next steps are for the town to set up an escrow account to pay the town-designated engineer, and for the engineer and also the town planner to begin their review, said Kovalchik.

At the same time, Kovalchik will send the application to the involved agencies — the state’s departments of transportation and of environmental conservation, as well as the Army Corps of Engineers — to ask for preliminary comments and to see if any of those agencies would like to take the lead on environmental review.

The Army Corps is involved because the site includes wetlands, Kovalchik said. The application estimates wetlands occupy about 3.69 acres, but that is not delineated, the town planner said.

The developer will need to have a biologist walk the site, mark the areas considered wetlands, map them, and send that information to the Army Corps, which Kovalchik believes would also visit the site to check if that information is correct and if the features meet the criteria for wetlands.

In October, Kovalchik hopes to make a presentation on the project to the town board.


More Guilderland News

  • While apartment approvals have been the Guilderland Planning Board’s bailiwick as of late, the board is now looking at approving a 58-lot single-family cluster subdivision near the intersection of Old State and Fuller Station roads 

  •  The owners of Pollard Disposal Services of Altamont in a note to customers  said in part, “We are writing this letter with excitement and dismay … It has come time to retire. The waste removal business is ever changing. New regulations and insurance requirements are weighing heavy on us. After looking around, we have decided to sell the waste company to Twin Bridges Waste and Recycling,”

  • A whole-building condemnation would ease the regulations, somewhat, related to the demolition of Crounse House. 

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.