A pause for thoughtful reappraisal is in order

To the Editor:

The editorial opinion, “Letting developers decide what’s good for the town is like letting a 6-year-old buy the groceries,” published on Nov. 15, 2018, is very supportive of the efforts by the Guilderland Citizens for Responsible Growth. While it hit many of the relevant issues that we have brought forth, it skipped over two important facts significant to the Hiawatha Golf Course Proposal ever seeing the light of day:

— 1. Neglect of the master plan; and

— 2. A questionable change in the town zoning code.

The new town planner made multiple references to the master plan, and specifically the Guilderland Hamlet Neighborhood Plan, during remarks that he made at the Nov. 8, town board meeting, but everyone on the various town boards have apparently ignored the specific references to the Hiawatha Golf Course that are present in the hamlet plan.

On page 3, in defining a “green infrastructure” network, the Kaikout Kill, the creek that bisects the golf course is referenced as a backbone of the infrastructure system. On page 8, there is a recommendation to “Maintain and expand public and private open space in the central hamlet. Continue to reach out to property owners interested in conservation, including the Hiawatha Golf Course (italics added) and the various active farmland properties in the neighborhood.”

On page 16, a map of the hamlet points to the Hiawatha Golf Course with the comment, “Work with landowner to maintain as recreation.” The conclusion of the Hamlet Neighborhood Master Plan again cites the Hiawatha Golf Course along with Tawasentha Park, Gade Farm, Nott Road Park, and the Western Turnpike Golf Course as elements in maintaining and formalizing a green infrastructure.

Then, there is the questionable change in the town zoning code put in place in June 2016, which inserted the term “Residential Facility, Independent Living,” a definition never before in the code, not only in allowed uses for Multiple Residence Districts, but also in Single-Family Residential Districts (the zoning of the Hiawatha Golf Course).

How can this definition possibly be construed as commensurate with single-family homes? And, isn’t it interesting that the Hiawatha Land Development LLC was initially filed only a few months later on Nov. 15, 2016?

Many of us feel blindsided by this change although perhaps some obscure notice was most likely made available to the public. Yet, I don’t recall any real attempt to involve town residents in the drafting and discussion of the changes in zoning code. Was the change made as a perceived need, and to what extent did developers have an input in the specific language?

Had a town planner been in place, who would have been charged with comparing applications to the master plan, and had the zoning code not been changed to expand the definition of single-family into apartments, we wouldn’t even be having a discussion about this proposal for a huge complex that doesn’t even meet the criteria for special-use permit on one half of the golf course, and perhaps another solution for the owner could have been found. A pause for thoughtful reappraisal is in order.

Frank Casey


Editor’s note: Frank Casey is one of the founders of Guilderland Citizens for Responsible Growth and is a resident of Presidential Estates.

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