Two Dems and one Republican vie for two seats on town board

GUILDERLAND — Guilderland’s Democratic supervisor, Peter Barber, is unchallenged in this year’s election.

Republican incumbent Lee Carman is the only Republican running for the board. Democratic Councilwoman Rosemary Centi, like Carman, is running to keep her seat. 

Laurel Bohl, a newcomer to politics, is also running on the Democratic line.

Just two seats are open and each carries a four-year term.

The three town board candidates and the supervisor were each asked about their relevant background and goals if elected.

The incumbents were also asked to describe a negative vote they cast on a proposal before the town board (or for the candidate not on the board yet when she would have voted no), and what their reasons were for voting no. 

Further, since the town board appoints the members of the planning and zoning boards, candidates were asked what qualifications and qualities they would look for in potential appointees. 

The candidates were asked for their views on these issues:

— Comprehensive planning: The town’s master plan dates from 2001. There have also been neighborhood plans done between 2003 and 2016 in Fort Hunter/Carman Road, Westmere, Route 20, rural Guilderland, the Guilderland hamlet, the Guilderland Center hamlet, the Railroad Avenue area, McKownville, and McKownville’s drainage. Master plans are meant to serve for about 20 years.

Is Guilderland’s comprehensive plan sufficiently up-to-date? Should Guilderland consider something else, like certain historical or aesthetic overlay districts? Do the town board, planning board, and zoning board follow the master plan and the neighborhood plans often enough? Could you give an example of a time when a board did follow the master plan with good results, or when it should have but didn’t?

— Traffic: More than 40,000 vehicles go past the Guilderland Public Library every day, about 9,000 more than pass by Colonie Center on Wolf Road. And many residents have expressed concerns about traffic on Guilderland’s major thoroughfare. Now zoning changes will allow senior independent-living facilities to be built within 1,000 feet of Route 20 or on sites that front on or have access to a state or county road.

What are some things the town board could do to mitigate traffic problems?

— Public participation: The town recently implemented two new ways — pre-application conferences and signs posted at proposed building sites — for the public to become involved earlier in the planning process, and to learn about and give feedback on potential development projects before a formal application is made.

What else, if anything, can the town do to involve the public more in questions related to development?

— Environment: The Guilderland Town Board has taken the first steps to become part of  Community Choice Aggregation, which allows local governments to procure power on behalf of their residents, using residents’ collective buying power to drive down costs while allowing the municipalities to choose the source of the electricity generation. The town has also joined the state Department of Environmental Conservation Climate Smart Communities program, and has run some of its municipal buildings on solar energy.

What else could or should Guilderland do to help reduce its carbon footprint? For example, should it consider creating its own green energy or adopting a recycling program like neighboring Bethlehem, which picks up food scraps curbside for recycling?

— Sanctuary: Guilderland is home to many new Americans. Neighboring municipalities like Albany and Bethlehem have declared themselves sanctuary communities, meaning the town would adopt a zero tolerance policy for persecution on the basis of where someone comes from, or their immigration status, and the Guilderland Police would not actively seek out or report people's immigration status.

Should the town board adopt a resolution making Guilderland a sanctuary community? Why or why not?

— Candidate selection: A lawsuit brought by a candidate for Guilderland town judge who felt shut out of the selection process inspired the town’s Democratic committee to evaluate whether it should switch from a caucus to a primary process.

For democratic candidates: Should the town of Guilderland’s Democratic Party continue to choose candidates at a caucus, or should it switch to a primary system? Why?

For the Republican candidate: Do you think the primary system that the Republicans use is working well, or should they think about looking into a caucus system?

— Surveillance: The town board oversees the town’s police department, and voted in 2017 to approve the department’s proposed spending of $77,000 on body and vehicle cameras. However, recent quests by The Enterprise to review footage have been denied.

What do you think the purpose or purposes of body-camera footage should be, and should the public have more ready access to it?

 

 

 

Cutline: 

Peter G. Barber 

Summary: 

Starting in January, Barber said, all the various public hearings, including those of the Industrial Development Agency, are going to be available streaming online. 
 

Peter G. Barber 

By Elizabeth Floyd Mair 

GUILDERLAND — Peter G. Barber has been Guilderland’s supervisor since 2015 and says he has run “a very open and comprehensive agenda.” He is running unopposed for re-election. 

He is enrolled as a Democrat and has been, he says, “Democratic my entire life.” He is running on the Democratic line and on the Independence and Conservative party lines. 

“We get support from other parties because they like the transparency and openness as well as the very clean government,” he said of Guilderland. He added, “The town employees here are great, devoted to public service.” 

Barber chaired the Guilderland Zoning Board of Appeals from January 2000 through December 2015, except for 2004 and part of 2005 when he was the assistant town attorney, handling litigation and contract negotiations.

Of the comprehensive plan, he said this includes the “mother document” from 2001 as well as the many neighborhood studies that that document envisioned and that have been created over the years, the last one being the Westmere Corridor study of 2016. 

The town has followed through on one of the recommendations of the Westmere Corridor study, which was for a transit-oriented district around Crossgates Mall, because of the transit center there.

A dual-branded hotel that opened in October 2018 was in keeping with the goals of the district, Barber said, which were to encourage projects that promoted the use of mass transit or of the nearby highways. The hotel is a prime example, he said, of the latter. 

The town has also been able to realize recommendations from the Guilderland Hamlet study, Barber said, including the installation of sidewalks that will connect the public library on Western Avenue in the hamlet to the State Employees Federal Credit Union near Route 155. The town has also been able to take over Mercy Care Lane to create safe access for cars trying to turn left from the library onto Route 20, with the option of coming out at the traffic light at Winding Brook Drive. 

A few months before that was done, Barber said, he spoke with the New York State Department of Transportation, and a portion of the road in front of the library was restriped, to create a small “safe zone.” 

About traffic, Barber pointed out that the decision about where to allow senior facilities is a “substantial change” because it limits where these facilities can go. Previously, Barber said, senior facilities were allowed on all town roads. 

More importantly, he said, the town works closely with the state’s Department of Transportation to make improvements. 

As an example, Barber offered the intersection of Carman Road and Lydius Street, where he said a roundabout now being proposed by the state DOT will bring the level of service at the intersection from a “D” to an “A.” 

Currently, he said, the DOT is looking at various intersections, at the town’s request, including Carman Road and Western Avenue, in terms of whether the timing of the traffic lights should be improved or changed as well as whether other improvements, such as turn lanes or even roundabouts, are needed. 

The town is always trying to increase public participation in the decision-making process, Barber said. 

The new “pre-application conferences” that the town holds with developers before formal proposals are submitted are held on a set day of the week and time each month so that people know when the conferences are, he said; these are open to the public. 

Starting in January, Barber said, all the various public hearings will be livestreamed online.

Town meetings are currently televised live and replayed on television a couple of times during the week. They are also available online on the town website — complete with indexing that allows viewers to skip to the portion of the meeting they are interested in — but the videos are currently not posted online until the day after the meeting. 

Starting in January, Barber said, the town will also be putting the entire application packet for proposed projects online.

“One thing we’re thinking of doing is having applicants submit applications in pdf format,” he said. 

A long-term goal, Barber said, is to look into whether there is a way for people to participate and ask questions during public meetings from home, while being able to interact with the board through, for instance, email or Skype. 

“But the question is,” he said, “who’s going to keep an eye on that.” 

He added that a lot of towns are looking into answering that same question. 

Town planner Kenneth Kovalchik does a great job, Barber said, of keeping up with public-participation tools that other municipalities are introducing. 

On Oct. 15, Barber said, the town board approved GE Solar to set up a solar facility at the town’s landfill. This project will have a community-solar aspect, he said. 

The town already has a solar facility in Amsterdam, he said. Guilderland partnered with a company in California to develop the facility, and it came online in June. The town is producing solar energy and receives credits to its energy bill, he explained. 

The town is a “clean energy community,” Barber said. 

The town recently installed a dual charging station, he said, at the town hall, which is available for residents’ use free of charge and which works for any electric cars. 

Guilderland uses software supplied by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, he said, that allows the town to monitor how much energy it is using, “particularly at the water-filtration plant,” Barber said. 

A new water interconnect with Rotterdam, Barber said, will reduce the need to use the filtration plant, since Rotterdam’s water is already treated, so it needs only chlorine treatment and will not need to go through the filtration plant, he said. 

The town is going to be acquiring 600 street lamps from National Grid, Barber said, and will then change them over to light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. The town is working with New Scotland, Altamont, and Voorheesville on acquiring National Grid’s lights and converting them to LED.

The town is partnering with neighboring municipalities as part of a combined effort to maintain the LED lights, since sharing that responsibility would cost less, he said. He expects to have a contract to purchase the lights ready for town board adoption in early 2020, he said. 

Barber also said that the town has proposed becoming involvement in the Community Choice Aggregation program, in which it would join with other municipalities to purchase electric power at favorable rates, from sources other than National Grid. 

In response to a question about whether Guilderland should declare itself a sanctuary town, Barber said, “At this point, we have determined it’s not necessary.” 

Guilderland is already a very diverse town, where people are comfortable, he said. Over 30 languages are spoken in Guilderland’s schools, he said, and the police force does not inquire into people’s immigration status. Declaring it a sanctuary town might create the impression that there is some issue where there is none, he said.

Regarding police camera footage, Barber said that the footage recently requested by The Enterprise is currently under review by the New York State Police, which spokeswoman Trooper Kerra Burns confirmed. It is being reviewed by the State Police because it involves the Guilderland police, and needs to be investigated by an independent agency. 

“Once that is complete, we will release it,” he said. “We don’t consider it a personnel issue.”

He said that initially the police department had thought that such footage was part of a personnel file, but that the town is in fact not taking that view. 

Barber said he couldn’t think of any time so far when, as supervisor, he has had to vote “no” on a proposal. 

He voted “no” several times while he was on the zoning board, he said, “for use variances, which should be granted very rarely.” 

Some of the most difficult decisions have been those related to larger rezone requests, Barber said, noting that in those cases he always reads the comprehensive plan, the zoning code, and the recommendation of the town planner, to aid in making a decision. 

People sometimes misunderstand, he said, that the zoning codes are not one size fits all. The proposed use and the location sometimes come into play, he said, offering as an example a lot that backed onto the Thruway, where a board might decide to rezone despite the property not having the required setbacks. 

Regarding the qualities he would look for in an appointee to the planning or zoning board, Barber said he would look for people who are open-minded. He said that being an attorney is not a requirement. 

“I try to get some diversity in terms of where people live and also gender and race, because we want to make sure it’s reflective of the community,” he said. 

Barber could go either way, with supporting a caucus or a primary system for the Democratic party, he said, adding that he thinks the caucus route is easiest. 

“You show up on the date and time, and if you get a second, you’re the candidate.” 

Caucuses get the largest participation, he said, because the bar is so low for participation. He was referring to the ease with which a candidate can get on the ballot without needing, as with a primary, to spend weeks or months collecting signatures on petitions. 

He added, “One problem with the caucus is you have to physically show up. So it’s ultimately, what do you think is best for your town?” 

 

 

 

Lee R. Carman

 

GUILDERLAND — Lee R. Carman, who works in private-sector finance, is running for a second four-year term on the Guilderland Town Board. 

Carman, 51, served three terms in the Albany County Legislature, representing District 29, and was minority leader for the last two of those years. 

He is the lone Republican on a board of Democrats. 

In addition to the Republican line, he also has the Conservative and Independence party lines. 

“I consider myself a fiscal conservative,” Carman said, “and the Independence is more because of independent thinking and trying to represent everybody.” 

He added, “It doesn’t really matter what party you’re aligned with — I should represent everybody equally.” 

Carman grew up in Guilderland Center, like his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. He and his wife, whom he has known since they were both 6 years old and students at Altamont Elementary School, have been married for 26 years, he said. 

He graduated from Clarkson University with a dual major in finance and management, he said. Throughout his career, he has worked in finance in the private sector. 

Guilderland’s master plan has been reviewed numerous times, Carman said. When the zoning code was updated a few years ago, its changes were compared to the master plan, and the Westmere Corridor study of 2016 looked back at it, he said. 

Each project needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis, Carman said. 

“Every proposal has different intricacies to it, and it’s not like you’re putting a round peg in a square hole every time,” Carman said. “You’ve got to look at all the different sides of it. That’s why things are in front of the different boards for months and sometimes years, because they are taking everything into consideration.” 

One of the key recommendations of the comprehensive plan, when considering the original Glass Works Village project — a New Urbanist development approved but never built at the corner of Route 20 and Winding Brook Drive that would have combined residential with commercial space — Carman said, was walkability and access to services.

“You’re almost pushing things to that hamlet, to make it happen,” he said. 

Carman pointed to traffic improvements in the area of the center hamlet. The town took over Mercy Care Lane and made it possible for cars to turn down Mercy Care from the Guilderland Public Library, to go to Winding Brook Drive and wait at the traffic light, when turning left. Soon, at the car wash site, across from SEFCU on Route 20, three curb cuts will be combined into one and will be controlled by a four-way traffic light, he said. 

“You have to look at how you can make the flow of traffic safer,” he said. 

Carman asked if the 40,000 cars that travel Route 20 through the center hamlet every day represents the heaviest traffic on Route 20 in Guilderland, and indeed, according to the New York State Traffic Data Viewer, it is the most heavily trafficked section except right in front of Crossgates Mall, which has 50,000 at a site where several highways converge. 

Carman hypothesized that the rate of daily traffic on the stretch of Route 20 that goes through the center hamlet in front of the library might be so high because it includes vehicles coming from Schenectady and Rotterdam and the Hilltowns.

“That’s the only piece when everything is combined,” he said. Some vehicles will turn left onto Route 155 to access Washington Avenue Extension, and others will go straight, he said. 

Carman said pre-application conferences are useful for everyone — town employees, applicants, and concerned members of the public — so that they can hear about projects sooner and voice any potential concerns. 

He echoed what the town planner, Kenneth Kovalchik, and the town supervisor, Peter Barber, have explained before, that developers float many ideas that never see the light of day “because they’re having these conversations.

“I think having open communication for all involved is good,” Carman said. “I don’t see anything wrong with what was proposed. It’s a step in the right direction.” 

On the environment, Carman said the town is already working proactively. He mentioned, as examples, the two hazardous-waste days the town holds every year to allow residents to dispose of toxic materials properly, and a planned project of replacing the bulbs in street lights throughout the town with light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. 

Asked about making Guilderland a sanctuary community, Carman said, “I’ve never had this discussion with anybody on the town board. This is like a federal and a state thing.” He added, “I’m not prepared to discuss this. This is not an issue that we run on.” 

As an example of a time when he voted “no,” Carman cited a decision several years ago by the town board to remove the real-property tax exemption for solar and wind energy systems and farm-waste energy systems.

The removal of the exemption meant that, for instance, solar panels would be factored into a home’s assessment, Carman said. 

He said he had felt that the town’s decision to remove that exemption might disincentivize homeowners and property owners from making eco-friendly improvements. 

When appointing candidates to the planning or zoning boards, Carman said, he would look for people who are committed to the town and its betterment. 

Also important is a professional background and skills in listening to people — including the members of the board, the applicant, and residents. An appointee would need to have the ability to ask questions and communicate in a professional way, Carman said. 

When asked for his thoughts on how the primary system is working for the Republicans, Carman said, “You’re asking the question because there was a lawsuit against the Democratic Party.” He continued, “I don’t know how this question is pertinent to me. I am not part of the Democratic Party.” 

 

 

 

 

 
 

Laurel Bohl 

 

GUILDERLAND — Laurel Bohl came to her campaign for town board through an unusual route: she started out as an organizer and then the leader of a grassroots group, the Guilderland Coalition for Responsible Growth, critical of the fast pace of development and the number of approved rezones and variances in the town. 

The coalition arose in opposition to a 256-unit senior independent-living apartment complex proposed for the Hiawatha Trails Executive Golf Course on Route 155 across from Farnsworth Middle School, a project the group said was too large and would bring too much additional traffic. The group went on to become a watchdog organization that has mobilized residents to learn about development projects, write letters, and attend meetings of the town’s various boards. 

Bohl withdrew from the coalition once she announced her candidacy for the town board.

Bohl is a lifelong resident of the town, as were her parents and grandparents “back to the early 1900s,” she said. Her mother and father were both postmasters for many years — her father, Daniel C. Bohl, in Guilderland, and her mother, Norma Bohl, in Guilderland Center. 

A Democrat, she is running only on the Democratic line. She would have sought the endorsement of the Independence and Working Families parties, she said, had she started her campaign earlier.

She first threw her hat into the ring and was added to the ticket at the Democratic caucus in April, after endorsements for the other party lines had already been decided. Paul Caputo, head of the Independence Party in Albany County, confirmed that the Independence Party had chosen its candidates in January and February, months earlier than formerly, to meet the speeded-up schedule brought this year by election reform.

An attorney with the state, she has worked in the area of real property law for the last 13 years. With that background, she would bring legal knowledge and listening skills to the board, Bohl said, adding that she would be able to help write local legislation.

Bohl has spoken regularly at meetings of the town bard, planning board, and zoning board over the past year-and-a-half, asking questions and raising points for the boards to consider. 

What made her decide to run? 

“After seeing and hearing a lot of residents voice the same concerns about over-development to the boards and seeing nothing done, it was time to go from working on the outside for the residents in a grassroots movement, to working on the inside with the administration to make sure the residents had a greater say in what was going on in the town, and making sure there was more of a power balance between developers and residents,” she said. 

Bohl was stricken, she said, by the damage that all of the developments being proposed and approved were doing to the environment, “and how they were changing the face and the character of Guilderland forever.” She felt it was “time to make some changes to the code and the procedures in the town that would give more power to the residents to control what their town would look like.” 

Bohl was waiting, she said, for the Democrats to run a candidate in the open slot, as she was sure they would. She learned at the last minute that the Democrats were running only one candidate, not two, despite there being two seats open on the board. 

“I gave it a lot of thought and decided somebody had to do it, and I couldn't just sit by and not do anything,” she said. 

Bohl said the town’s comprehensive plan — including the original document and the neighborhood studies — was enacted over a 15-year period, from 2001 through 2016, and “there are parts of it that are current, and parts of it that aren’t.”

But, she said, “it’s the plan we have right now,” and so the town’s boards should be enforcing it, “not trying to change it by spot zoning or creating new special-use permits.” Zoning changes can be done, Bohl said, but only when they are consistent with the overall master plan. 

She thinks overlay districts are “a great idea,” she said, and would like to see a conservation overlay district created for the Pine Bush in Guilderland, similar to the one Colonie has already created. (Within its section of the town code establishing a conservation development overlay district, Colonie has a section called “Special standards for areas influenced by Albany Pine Bush Preserve.”) 

“The Pine Bush is the most sensitive part of Guilderland, environmentally,” Bohl said, “and the fact that Colonie has an overlay district for the Pine Bush and we don’t is unfortunate.” 

McKownville might benefit, she said, from becoming a historic overlay district that would still allow development but require it to “match the historic nature of the area.” 

As an example of a time when a board should have followed the master plan but didn’t, Bohl offered as “the most glaring one” the car wash currently being constructed across Western Avenue from the Market 32 and State Employees Federal Credit Union just west of Route 155. 

The Guilderland Hamlet Neighborhood Plan, she said, “very clearly says, for the central hamlet, no auto uses.” She asked rhetorically, “And what’ s more of an auto use than a car wash?”

 (The hamlet plan, which dates from 2007, includes among its recommendations, “Maintain the existing land use pattern of LB [local business] and BN-RP [business non-retail professional] use types. For example, do not allow auto-related uses such as gas stations or other uses that would detract from a walkable, traditional hamlet (e.g., industrial, big-box centers, self-storage, etc.”)

The “gigantic” car wash is out of proportion to the town, Bohl said. And the property was “spot-zoned” by the town board, she said, when it was changed from business non-retail professional to general business, the town’s most intensive commercial use, to make the car wash possible. The size of the planned car wash tunnel is 190 feet. 

“It is going from what was being used as a very low-intensity use to the most intensive zoning use in Guilderland,” Bohl said. 

She continued, “And usually the two questions that a good planer or a good government asks when they’re doing a request for a rezone is: One, is it just for the developer’s benefit? The answer should be no, not just for the benefit of the developer. Two, does it fit the master plan? And the answer to that would have been ‘no.’”

It would have been within the authority of the zoning board to require that the car wash project be “scaled down to meet the character of the town,” Bohl said, but that this was not done. 

Planning Board Chairman Thomas Remmert told The Enterprise that the zoning board bases its decisions on the recommendations made to it by the planning board. He said he thought he recalled that most of the planning board’s recommendations had been incorporated by the applicant into the plan before it came back to the zoning board.

“Well, it would have been within our authority to deny the site-plan review,” Remmert said. The master plan is a guide, he said, while the zoning code is a law; the town board would have taken the master plan into account when considering the rezone.

Remmert also said the car wash seems to be appropriate in its surroundings, with Hamilton Square and Star Plaza across the street. He also said that, in his personal opinion, he didn’t think the area where the car wash is located should rightly be viewed as part of the hamlet; the hamlet doesn’t really start until just past Prospect Hill Cemetery, he said.

Regarding traffic, Bohl said, boards should look at the cumulative effects on traffic of all the projects that are being built, have been approved, or are proposed, rather than looking at the effects of one in isolation.

Asked if Guilderland boards are not already doing that, Bohl said that the boards have recently begun to do more cumulative studies, after being pushed by the coalition for a year-and-a-half. She credited Supervisor Peter Barber for requiring the boards to do cumulative studies for larger projects including Hiawatha Trails, and Winding Brook Commons Village, a proposed Planned Unit Development that would bring 198 units to the corner of Western Avenue and Winding Brook Drive. 

Barber responded through an email to The Enterprise, “The various studies of cumulative impacts was not the result of the coalition's request. Those studies are legally required by SEQRA regulations for Type I and many Unlisted Actions and DOT's policy, and have been done for numerous projects over the years. It is not new. I have taught SEQRA courses at regional planning meetings and I receive regular updates on changes in DEC's regulations which provide objective thresholds for requiring cumulative impact studies.” 

After a great deal of public push-back on a 222-unit apartment-and-townhouse complex it has proposed for Rapp Road beside Crossgates Mall, Pyramid has now been required by the town’s planning board to draft an Environmental Impact Statement for all the lands it owns around the mall.

In the statement, Pyramid will need to outline the total square footage of commercial space that it plans to build within the transit-oriented development district where Crossgates Mall is located, as well as the number of dwelling units. Those numbers would then be used to calculate the potential impact on traffic and on sewer systems for all of that development. 

Bohl said that more weight should be given to traffic studies done by the town-designated engineers, which she said “are meant to be more impartial,” and less to those done by engineering firms hired by developers. 

Asked about this, Town Planner Kenneth Kovalchik said traffic studies are done by an applicant’s engineer, and the town-designated engineer will review and provide comments. 

Third, she said, the Route 20 Corridor Study, which dates from 2005, should be updated. “That hasn’t been done in 14 years.” 

Bohl said she “wholeheartedly” supports the decision to hold pre-application conferences and just wishes they were not at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesdays — the third Wednesday of each month, as needed — which she called “a time when very few members of the public can be there; most of them are working.” 

She recommends creating a Residents’ Advisory Committee, with residents from each of Guilderland’s five neighborhoods: Westmere, McKownville, Altamont, the central hamlet, and Fort Hunter/western Guilderland. The residents on the committee could be tasked with getting the thoughts of their neighbors and relaying them to the board, she said. 

She suggested that Guilderland should take a page from Bethlehem and try to get public input by sending out surveys. Bethlehem’s director of planning, Robert Leslie, confirmed to The Enterprise that Bethlehem did a couple of related surveys last year, to confirm whether residents still felt that open space was important, before seeking funding for it. One was a survey, he said, asking for their thoughts about various types of natural resources, and the other was a photographic survey asking them to send in photos of their favorite open space in town, so that the town could learn how residents defined it.

The town received an “overwhelming response,” Leslie said, confirming that residents value open space, and the town board went on to approve the creation of a Farms and Forests Fund for conservation and easements. 

Bohl said that Guilderland is at a crossroads “because of the expansive development going on right now,” which she said involves about 1,200 apartments. She says the town should have an impartial study done of the need for senior housing before approving more senior independent-living complexes. 

The town’s residents need to decide, she said, if they want Guilderland to grow to look like Colonie, which is “very business-oriented,” or if they want to be like Bethlehem, “more focused now on climate and green principles.” 

Bohl said it would be good to explore ways to incentivize developers to use green principles in their buildings. 

Asked what she would have voted “no” on if she had been on the town board, Bohl asked with a laugh, “Well, how much time do we have?”

She said she would have voted “no” on the rezone that made the car wash possible. 

She also would probably have voted “no,” she said, on several of the recent large apartment building projects, “especially senior apartment buildings, because there’s no demonstrated impartial study done. I’d like to know the need for them first, before we approve and build them.” 

It is good, she said, that the town board recently limited where senior independent-living facilities can be built. But, had she been on the board when the zoning code was modified several years ago, she would have voted against allowing senior facilities to be built in residential areas with a special-use permit.

“I don’t think it’s consistent with the definition of residential zoning, although they can certainly go in multi-residential zones, or other zones where they would fit in with the definition.” 

Guilderland should declare itself a sanctuary community, Bohl said, like Bethlehem and Albany have. When something on the federal level “is wrong against innocent people,” she said, “I think it’s our job to step up and take a stand on it.” 

Even though she was endorsed in a caucus, Bohl said she thinks the Guilderland Democratic party should move to a primary system. “I think it’s a lot more out in the open; it’s a lot more transparent, more open to everyone.” 

If she had the opportunity to look for new members of the planning or zoning boards, as a member of the town board, Bohl said, “I would look for independent and diverse voices.” 

Disagreement is healthy, Bohl said. It wouldn’t matter to her much what party they were enrolled in, she said. “I don’t see a lot of value in any boards anywhere that just vote the same way continuously,” Bohl said. 

Diverse voices and perspectives can “flesh out all the issues behind a project,” she said. “So I would look for independent thinkers and people who aren’t afraid to speak up, and people that will do their homework, because there’s a whole lot of homework on those boards.”

“People who would listen to the residents,” she concluded.

 

 

 

Rosemary Centi

 

GUILDERLAND — Rosemary Centi served as town clerk for 13 years and is now running for her second four-year term on the town board.

Her goals for the board are to continue to look “toward the growth we’re seeing in the town, keeping it in a carefully planned development, making sure that every project that comes before the board has hit all the boxes.”  

She was the first Democratic clerk in the town’s history. 

She is running on the Democratic line as well as on the Independence and Conservative party lines. “I wanted the people to have an opportunity to vote on whatever line they chose to, and they approached me, and I accepted,” she said of the small-party lines. 

Since the creation of the town’s original master plan in 2001, there have been many neighborhood studies done over the years, Centi said. 

Does it need to be revamped, she asked, answering herself, “I think as a document I don’t feel at this point we need to redo the entire comprehensive plan.” 

She added, “What we’ve been doing is looking at it in regard to projects. It’s used as a guideline, so I think as it stands right now, it has worked as a document.” 

The zoning code review committee worked for years on revamping the code, she said. That work was completed in 2016. “These people worked hours and hours and hours,” she said. 

If people look at the Guilderland Hamlet study of 2007, she said, “they’ll see that what is being done is really spot-on with it.”

“There was a project,” she said, “called Glass Works; there was a lot of enthusiasm about it.” Glass Works Village was a New Urbanist development approved but never built at the corner of Route 20 and Winding Brook Drive that would have combined residential with commercial space.

“That was all looked at in terms of the comprehensive plan and the hamlet study,” she said. 

Much more recently, Centi walked the terrain of another project nearby that has since been approved, Winding Brook Townhomes across Winding Brook Drive from the YMCA. 

“It did give me some pause because of the topography,” she said, referring to the hilly terrain, adding that the developer and engineer were responsive to the issues raised, and addressed them. 

There are many things in the comprehensive plan that the board follows, Centi said, listing diversity of housing and preserving sites for recreational uses. “We do that, absolutely,” she said. 

Asked what the town board might do to mitigate traffic problems, Centi said at first, “I don’t know.” She added, “When you have development, you have some traffic. And that’s the major thoroughfare in the town,” she said of Route 20.

Centi also mentioned the improvement the town made when it took over Mercy Care Lane to make it possible for drivers wanting to turn left out of the library to instead take Mercy Care Lane to Winding Brook, to come out at the traffic light. 

“That really is a lifesaver,” she said. 

Centi drives along Western Avenue every day in the morning and evening rush hours, she said, to pick up her grandson and bring him back to her home. The ride takes her through the intersection of Route 155 and Western Avenue at rush hour, she said. 

The light at that intersection is “a bottleneck,” Centi said, but she doesn’t think she sits there through more than one cycle. 

“Can I tell you it’s going to get better?” she asked. “No, I can’t.” 

Centi offered, “I find some of the traffic studies that show so few numbers hard to believe.” 

The sidewalks that will be built from the library to the State Employees Federal Credit Union near the corner of Route 155 and Western Avenue, as well as sidewalks on Carman Road from Pine Bush Elementary School to Lydius Street will be a help, she said, noting that, when sidewalks are available, “people tend to use them rather than getting in a car.” 

One spot where Centi thinks improvement is needed is at the intersection of Western Avenue and Carman Road. For a driver headed east on Western Avenue, it is “almost impossible” to turn left onto Carman Road. 

“I would like to see a left-turn arrow there, and the right arrow turned off for cars heading west on Western, turning right onto Carman,” she said.

Centi is a fan, she said, of the new innovations of pre-application conference and signs announcing that a site has a proposal on file at the town hall. The conference is a way to inform department heads in the town about projects that developers hope to propose, to get their input; the public is invited to attend and to ask questions as well.

Centi does not believe that there is a need, she said, for an additional Residents’ Advisory Committee, referring to a suggestion made by fellow Democratic candidate Laurel Bohl. 

“You want input and participation; all are welcome. I just don’t think that another layer of government is necessary,” Centi said. 

Centi appreciates neighborhood committees like the Guilderland Coalition for Responsible Growth. “That was great,” she said of the coalition’s efforts. “It’s not just something we throw in the bin. They’ve given us a lot of great ideas.” 

She compared the coalition to FORCE, or Friends Organized for Responsible Community Expansion, which had initially formed almost two decades ago to oppose Crossgates Mall expansion. FORCE had filed a lawsuit after Guilderland’s zoning board had granted a use variance for a McDonald’s with a drive-through, at the site of what is now SEFCU on Western Avenue; the suit prevented the McDonald’s from being built.

Guilderland having its own solar farm is something to consider, Centi said. 

She said she did not know anything about recycling foodstuffs, so she would not address that. 

As with anything else, Centi said, it is necessary to balance cost against benefit: “How much is this going to cost, and how effective would it be for the greater good of the residents … You don’t want to raise taxes for something that wouldn’t benefit most residents.” 

Centi voted “no” on the Carman Ridge Apartments project, she said, currently being built at the corner of Carman Road and East Old State Road. 

“I thought it was too large a project for that parcel,” she said. “I didn’t appreciate how much of the land was being covered; I thought it was too close to the road, and it’s aesthetically not good.” 

The main qualification for a member of any board is willingness to serve and to devote a lot of time, Centi said about what she would look for in an appointee to the planning or zoning boards. 

As an example, she said that members of Guilderland’s Conservation Advisory Council are outside regularly in their “muckruck boots,” walking up and down hills, ravines, and gorges, walking the length of properties in all kinds of weather. 

“I’ve only walked a few; they’re walking every single property that comes before them,” she said. 

When asked about Guilderland becoming a sanctuary town, Centi said her parents were immigrants from Italy, and that she understands issues around immigration very intimately. Still, she said, “It’s a peculiar question for a local government.”

Centi said she would need more information before being able to answer, and would need to talk to entities like the police department or the school district to get their views. 

Centi’s husband chaired the caucus committee — part of the Guilderland Democratic Committee — that has been looking into whether the town Democrats should stick with their current caucus system or change to a primary. 

She said she would defer to the committee. “It’s a vote, and all things should be democratically done.” 

She prefers the caucus, but she could probably be persuaded, she said. 
 

 

More Guilderland News

  •  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,”

  • GUILDERLAND — Because of quarantined staff, some middle school students here will be learning rem

  • Placards notifying the public that the Dutch Mill Acres Townhome application is slated to be heard at an upcoming Guilderland Town Board meeting were posted on Carman Road and Lone Pine Drive, according to an affidavit filed with the town, but no meeting date is listed on the sworn statement.   

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