Hiawatha Trails hits possible fire-code snag 

Enterprise file photo — Elizabeth Floyd Mair

A senior independent-living facility is to be built on the site of the former Hiawatha Trails Executive Golf Course, although the developer needs to be in compliance with the state fire code first. 

GUILDERLAND — The Hiawatha Trails project will need to comply with the state fire code before it can get a building permit, town Supervisor Peter Barber told The Enterprise last week. 

Hiawatha Trails is a 256-unit senior independent-living facility approved in May, located at 6025 and 6051 State Farm Road, which is still open space as it had long been a golf course.

The state code requires a development of that size to have two access roads while the current plan for Hiawatha Trails has just one.

The developer is Tony Carrow, chief of the Westmere Fire Department. Carrow did not respond to calls asking for comment; neither did the project’s attorney, Terresa Bakner of Whiteman Osterman and Hanna. 

Guilderland’s chief building and zoning inspector, Jacqueline M. Coons, said she has not yet contacted the state’s Department of State for an official interpretation of the fire code, because the applicant has requested time to address the issue. 

“At this time I cannot affirmatively state that this does or does not comply with the Fire Code,” Coons wrote in an email, answering Enterprise questions. 

According to New York State Fire Code, any multi-residential building of more than 200 units must have two separate access roads for fire apparatuses, regardless of whether sprinklers are in use throughout the complex. 

Hiawatha Trails has one access road, in and out, onto Route 155, which is a state road. 

The interior road proposed for the development loops around the complex, but there is only one road that leads into the site. 

Section D106 of the fire code states, “Multiple-family residential projects having more than 200 dwelling units shall be provided with two separate and approved fire apparatus access roads regardless of whether they are equipped with an approved automatic sprinkler system.” 

These access roads must be a certain distance apart as well. The code states, “Where two fire apparatus access roads are required, they shall be placed a distance apart equal to not less than one-half of the length of the maximum overall diagonal dimension of the property or area to be served, measured in a straight line between accesses.” 

Variances can sometimes be granted by the state, said Barber, and sometimes are when projects are close to a major road, allowing access.

The applicant may be required, Barber said, to add another entrance. He noted that, if a second entry road is required, the town would like Carrow to add it on his land, and not the 24 acres, or 63 percent, of the site to be dedicated to the town as parkland. 

“At this time, the Department of State has not received any application for a variance relating to the proposed Hiawatha Trails building,” The New York State Department of State’s press office wrote in an email to The Enterprise on Wednesday.

The press office added that the department occasionally receives applications for variances from the uniform code’s fire-apparatus access requirements and typically refers the applications to one of the department’s six boards of review.

These boards assess applications on a case-by-case basis, the press office said. 

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