What is the rush? Once this green space is gone, it’s gone

To the Editor:

I have sent this letter to Guilderland’s supervisor, Peter Barber, with copies to the town planner, zoning board members, and planning board members.

My husband and I are Guilderland residents, moving to town in 1988, seeking a community that would better suit our family’s lifestyle, which included an infant. I am writing today to express our sincere and serious concern regarding the seemingly haphazard approach to development in our town.

We don’t understand why these various projects are being reviewed and approved individually and without context. We are aware that our friends, neighbors, and other interested community members have spoken to and continue to speak out about the myriad issues that suburban development raises.

We address this letter to you, as the sole elected official involved in this process, and as such, it is our expectation that you are looking out for the town and its inhabitants, first and foremost.

Let me say first that we are not anti-development. We believe in a landowner’s right to do what he will with his property, as long as it is within the law. A recent letter from Laurel L. Bohl to The Altamont Enterprise speaks clearly to this issue and it is a recommended read, if you haven’t done so already.  We implore you to be judicious in the review process for “special use permits,” which are basically requests for an exemption to our current zoning laws.

We are against development projects planned for large swathes of our town, without an integrated plan,  and without a demonstrated need for the 1200-plus units currently before the board and planned in more than five areas of the town. In our opinion, what the town is missing is more available single-family housing.

We also decry the lack of transparency in the planning process, and the pro-developer bias that seems to permeate the process. We are thankful to neighbors, fellow citizens, and neighborhood-association leaders, as well as to The Altamont Enterprise for keeping the citizenship aware of what is going on with the town board, the planning board, and the zoning board of appeals as to zoning changes and exemptions that will impact on our community of predominantly single-family homes, in ways that will change it forever.

On a “macro” level, first and foremost, we need a comprehensive plan that will inform decision-making regarding these projects that impact our entire town. If the old plan is obsolete, then call for a review.

Now that we have a town planner, let’s “hit pause,” and do a comprehensive review that envisions all projects that are currently before the board. What is the rush? Once this green space is gone, it’s gone.

This week, we saw the clear cut of the lot across from Stewart’s, in front of Atria on Route 155, the beginning of the “Summit at Mill Hill,” a three-story, 92-unit construction.

Other “macro” questions are in regard to water use and the impact on the water table that development of this magnitude requires. Overall congestion and air quality should also be considered, both long and short term.

The construction process itself produces a lot of activity and has impact that is detrimental to the environment. There is no question that if and when construction goes forward at Hiawatha Trails, buildings and people on Presidential Way will bear the brunt of the dirt and dust on our homes — fueled by the mostly western winds coming right our way. This must be considered.

The project immediately impacting our home, adjacent to the Farnsworth Middle School, called “Hiawatha Trails Senior Living” (a  proposal calling for 256 “senior living” units) across from us on Route 155 is a tough one. Traffic congestion on routes 20 and 155 is already challenging.

The placement of a traffic light at the intersection of Route 155 and Presidential Way (proposed as needed 10 years ago) hardly mitigates the traffic concerns. If installed, this light must include left-turn signals in each direction of Route 155.

We don’t believe the original VHB [Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc.] traffic study captured the essence of the traffic issue and did not even attempt to quantify the impact at routes 20 and 155. It is our hope that the town will hold off any further decision-making until it has received comments from the state’s Department of Transportation of its review of the VHB engineering study.

Our other concerns include the following: We don’t believe there is a demonstrated need for these numbers of senior-housing units in this community (we are both “seniors” now). I hope the town is not endorsing the concept of “build it and they will come.”  Not a good basis for making decisions such as this. Look at what has happened with the Rite Aid property, now an empty box on Route 20. Did Guilderland residents benefit from having three different drug stores at that busy intersection?

To reiterate some of our concerns: Impact on the water and its quality, air quality, negative visual impact on the residential nature of this area. Safety concerns related to increased traffic vis-à-vis the safety of Farnsworth Middle School students, many of whom walk to school from the currently existing apartment units (including Heritage Village, Presidential Townhouses, and Brandywine).

The proposed 256 Hiawatha Trails Senior Living units are quite close to Route 155 and the “green space” donated to the town (in lieu of what?) is landlocked and has a lot of “ifs” associated with it.

If 75 percent of the land is being given to the town (per The Altamont Enterprise, Sept. 27, 2018) does that preclude changing the orientation of the development? How many tax dollars are we losing from this “donation?” Wouldn’t it be better if the parcel were on the tax rolls, rather than becoming a financial burden to the homeowners in Guilderland?

This “gift” will have to be insured, maintained, etc., etc. Should this project be approved, the developer should be responsible for installing hiking paths and parking spaces in this area. Give the taxpayers something, not just wetlands!

We know this is a long letter and we thank you for attention to our concerns. We look forward to many more happy years in the town of Guilderland.

Tom Mancuso and

Melissa Mayone

Guilderland

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