Public hearing on Pyramid’s proposed apartment project remains open

— Photo from Steve Wickham
Guilderland town code says that placards are to be posted at projects due for public hearings at least 10 days before the date of the hearing. Steve Wickham, who chairs the steering committee for the Guilderland Coalition for Responsible Growth, says this picture was taken the day after the public hearing for Pyramid’s proposed 222-unit apartment and townhome development on Rapp Road.

GUILDERLAND — The Guilderland Planning Board at its Oct. 14 meeting, after listening to two hours of comments about Pyramid’s proposed development project for Rapp Road, did not grant the proposal site-plan approval and instead chose to keep open the project’s public hearing until the board’s next meeting, on Oct. 28. 

 Rapp Road Development, the limited-liability corporation proposing the project, is looking to build a 222-unit apartment and townhome development that would also have approximately 3,900 square feet of commercial space. 

The project would be built on the west side of Crossgates Mall, the side of the mall with Macy’s, and southwest of the intersection of Gipp and Rapp roads, according to Town Planner Kenneth Kovalchik’s memo to the planning board. 

The plan proposes three two-story townhouse-style buildings, with 10 units in each building, totaling 30 units, on the west side of the property. On either side of the entrance to the property, Rapp Road Development is proposing two five-story apartment buildings, one with 94 units and the other with 98 units.

The company is also proposing a total of 362 parking spots: 84 indoor spaces and 278 outdoor spots.  

Kovalchick reminded callers at the outset of the Oct. 14 hearing that the environmental review of the project had been completed, and that the purpose of the public hearing was the proposed project’s site plan.  Kovalchick encouraged callers to keep their comments relegated to “site-plan features.”

Of the roughly 54 people who called into the hearing, only a handful kept their comments in the ballpark of “site-plan features.”

About 20 Guilderland callers were in favor of the project; 15 out-of-town callers, most of whom had some connection to Crossgates Mall, were also partial to the proposal; 13 Guilderland residents were not in favor of the project; and 6 out-of-town callers, many of whom live in nearby Albany and would be impacted by the project, were against the proposal.

Tom O’Connor, a Guilderland resident and the vice president of government relations for the Capital Region Chamber of Commerce, said Pyramid had improved the project after input from the community. He cited the creation of multi-use paths as an example, adding that land would be donated to the Pine Bush Preserve and Rapp Road Historic District.

O’Connor also said that the project would add housing diversity to the town and that the project would have a positive impact on the local and regional economy, specifically tax revenues.

Taxes were repeatedly cited by both those against and in favor of the proposal: The pro-project callers said it would add to the town’s tax base while those callers against the project cited Crossgates Mall’s lawsuit against Guilderland to have its tax assessment slashed in half. 

Residential properties are often a net loss for the tax base because of services supplied by a municipality, particularly if the residents have school-age children.



Iris Broyde, who lives in Westmere Terrace, the neighborhood directly adjacent to the proposed project site, talked about Pyramid’s submissions for its five-story building from the perspective of Westmere Terrace. Broyde said it was in Pyramid’s interest to temper the reality of just how “corrupting” the project will be to the neighborhood “that is supposed to be protected from such encroachment.”

Broyde took issue with the photo renderings of the trees that are to be planted to block the new buildings from the existing neighborhood.

They are “fantasy,” she said, stating that the renderings in no way accurately show the impact of the project on Westmere Terrace. She said, “It will be plainly visible,” its “lights will illuminate our night,” and its “occupants will have visible access to our homes and yards.”

“That is the morbidly invasive reality which the applicant would prefer you to not recognize, despite it’s undeniability,” Broyde said.


Proper notice?

Steve Wickham, a Guilderland resident who chairs the steering committee for the Guilderland Coalition for Responsible Growth, questioned if the public hearing should even be held.

Wickham said that the planning board had been violating town code by proceeding with the hearing without the supplemental notice, and that placards weren’t placed at the Rapp Road site stating the project was under review, as required by town code. 

The Guilderland Town Board in 2019 adopted a law that says more has to be done on the part of an applicant to make the public aware of upcoming hearings for site-plan approval, special-use permits, or planned unit development. 

The 2019 law states that “at least ten days before the scheduled public hearing, the applicant shall post placards with required notice at the subject property.”

“Each placard,” according to code, “shall contain the required notice on a board measuring a minimum of 24 x 36 inches, placed in a weather protective covering, and posted at a height of five feet. The applicant shall maintain the placards and required notice during the review process.

“The notice shall state in a minimum 36 size font that,” the code says, with the wording in capital letters, “The property located at (street address(es)) is subject to an application by for (project description). The application is available for public inspection at the building department and/or planning department.”

The code also says that “the applicant shall submit an affidavit attesting to the posting of the required supplemental notice to the Town Planner or Zoning Administrator at least five days before the scheduled date of the public hearing.”

A call to Kovalchick to see if an affidavit attesting to the posting was submitted to the town was not returned. An affidavit is not included in the agenda packet for the meeting; a notice of the public hearing is. 

The penalty for violating chapter 280 of the town code is “a fine not exceeding $350 or by imprisonment for a period not to exceed six months, or both, for conviction of a first offense,” with monetary damages and prison time increasing for each subsequent violation. 

The town code also allows for an alternative penalty, which says in addition to the monetary and prison penalties, “the Town Board may institute any appropriate action or proceeding to prevent such unlawful erection, structural alteration, reconstruction, moving and/or use, to restrain, correct or abate such violation, to prevent the occupancy of such building, structure or land and to prevent any illegal act, conduct or business use in or about such premises.”

During the Oct. 14 meeting, Wickham asked if the board planned to continue with the hearing and Chairman Stephen Feeney said that he and his fellow board members were just taking comments.



Rick Miller, a city of Albany resident, asked about traffic mitigation and was told that, at project completion, Rapp Road would terminate at the entrance to Crossgates Mall northwest parking lot, and drivers would have to use the Ring Road to drive around the mall to get to Western Avenue.

Barbara Wickham of Guilderland, who was against the project, asked that the board not take up the application while the project is being challenged in court.

Late last month, a group of Westmere residents and a Guilderland gas-station owner filed a lawsuit against both the town and Pyramid in Albany County Supreme Court, “as a result of a series of actions and failure to act by the Respondents relating to land use applications for three sites in the Town of Guilderland…,” according to the court filing.

The plaintiffs are seeking to have vacated the planning board’s adopted State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) findings for the Rapp Road and Western Avenue projects.

The plaintiffs claim the planning board failed to comply with the coordinated review requirements laid out by SEQRA because earlier environmental review forms identified only Site 1 for development; however, “more than a month after establishment of lead agency the Board identified that the project had more than doubled in size and added significant commercial and office uses and multi-family units proposed for Sites 2 and 3,” according to the court documents.

The plaintiffs claim that the planning board did not re-circulate an updated environmental-review form that detailed the “the environmental inventory of Sites 2 and 3” or identified the project expansion onto the two new sites.

And the plaintiffs also claim the town violated SEQRA by segmenting its review — that is, considering portions of the project and not the whole. 

During the Oct. 14 public hearing it was also brought to the planning board’s attention that the proposed project could violate a conservation easement that is already in place. 


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