Neighbors concerned about traffic if Weatherfield more than doubles in density 

The Enterprise — Elizabeth Floyd Mair
Engineer Ivan Zdrahal, looking at a projected image, describes for members of the Development Planning Committee the housing development that the Albany Country Club is proposing.

GUILDERLAND — Living near the Albany Country Club golf course may soon become more crowded.

There are currently 280 homes in the Weatherfield neighborhood in Guilderland, along Route 155 toward Voorheesville. Albany Country Club wants to add 290 more living units, more than doubling the density. 

Residents are worried about traffic, which they say is already bad, and some of the roads, which they say are unsafe, with drop-offs, no shoulders, and S-curves. 

At a meeting on Wednesday morning, Nov. 20, with the Development Planning Committee, country club President Tom Cullinan and engineer Ivan Zdrahal described their proposal, to rezone 549 acres around the country club to a “country hamlet” zoning district. The project would leave 445 acres as deed-restricted open space and be built on 104 acres, the committee heard. 

The country club proposes 100 single-family lots, 100 townhouse lots, and 90 multifamily units. The multifamily units would be condominiums and would be for sale rather than for rent, Cullinan said. 

The prices would be “market-driven,” said Zdrahal. 

Once the rezone is complete, the country club would not act as the developer but would sell the land to be developed; it would retain ownership over the open space and allow the town an easement, Cullinan said. 

“Country hamlet” is a new zoning district in Guilderland, the board heard. It was created five or more years ago, at the beginning of the process of making changes to the town’s zoning code, said Jacqueline M. Coons, Guilderland’s chief building and zoning inspector. No country-hamlet projects have yet been approved, although one was proposed years ago for an area across from Guilderland High School in Guilderland Center. 

The zoning code says that the country-hamlet district “provides for the development of land consistent with the design principles of traditional neighborhoods, including: compact, pedestrian-scale design; a mix of uses (limited-scale commercial, residential, civic, open space, etc.); a mix of housing styles and types; interconnected streets with sidewalks, multipurpose pathways and other amenities to encourage pedestrian and bicycle use; and links to existing and future developments, community centers, parks and recreation resources.”

The code continues, “These hamlets conserve rural landscapes as natural areas, working farms and forest lands providing substantial benefits and open space amenities to the residents of the hamlet and the greater community.”

A country-hamlet district can only be in an RA3 or RA5 district, which are rural-agricultural districts with a minimum of two and three acres, respectively, per lot.

Country hamlets must be at least 160 acres, and must have frontage on and access to a county or state highway. Route 155 is a state highway.

The code defines building-density limits, and density bonuses for a high percentage of conservation and other benefits to town residents such as sidewalks, extension of public water, or age-restricted senior housing.

Multifamily dwelling units may not exceed more than 20 percent of all allowed dwelling units.

The code says that country-hamlet districts “shall include a publicly accessible trail network and/or sidewalks connecting the development to surrounding areas.” 

Planned unit development zoning, known as a PUD, for Weatherfield was granted in 1973. Until recently, the area where the country club wants to establish the country-hamlet district was zoned planned unit development, the fourth phase in the Weatherfield PUD.

In November, the town board voted, in response to a request from the developer, to withdraw that zoning and the approval dating from 1995 for 58 units consisting of 24 townhouse units and 34 single-family lots on 82 acres. The land then reverted to its original zoning, of R20, which means residential lots of at least 20,000 square feet. 

The country club plans to request a rezone to RA3, which will make it possible to include it in the country-hamlet proposal, the board heard. 

 

— From the town of Guilderland website
The 549 acres of the country-hamlet district proposed by the Albany Country Club wrap around existing golf course land, which is shown in a lighter color. Albany Country Club proposes building on 104 acres and leaving 445 acres as open space. The country club is proposing 100 single-family lots, 100 townhouse lots, and 90 multifamily units on those 104 acres. This would double the density of the Weatherfield neighborhood.

 

Interactive 

Development Planning Committee meetings, which are new to Guilderland, are open to the public. About a dozen people attended the Nov. 20 meeting on Weatherfield. 

The purpose of meetings, which began earlier this year, is to give department heads from throughout the town a chance to ask questions of developers earlier in the development process, and express any concerns. 

According to the application form developers use to request a meeting, topics include: consistency with town codes and regulations, neighborhood compatibility, environmental impact, potential for land conservation, and stormwater and infrastructure. 

Town officials did make comments and ask questions at the Weatherfield meeting. 

Donald Csaposs informed the developer that Guilderland has a “Rural Guilderland: Open Space and Farmland Protection Plan,” created in 2005, which Csaposs called “citizen-driven.” He recommended that the developer become familiar with the vision for Guilderland’s open spaces contained in that document. Csaposs, who lives in Weatherfield, leads the Guilderland Industrial Development Agency. 

Kenneth Kovalchik, the town’s planner, said that the rural plan mentions the country club area, and suggests that development there should be done using a conservation subdivision plan. 

The town planner recommended that the developer look at the Institute of Transportation Engineers manual for trip generation for those three types of residential units and think about how traffic might be distributed over the surrounding roads. 

Kovalchik also told the developer that the country-hamlet district encourages connected neighborhoods, and that the town would look for connections to the existing Weatherfield development and sidewalks to the Wormer Road area.

Kovalchik said the town has gotten “a lot of calls and emails” about pedestrian safety on Wormer Road. Csaposs added that the town’s Traffic Safety Committee has also discussed the topic at several meetings.

Members of the public also spoke, with many focusing on traffic concerns on sharply curved roads like Relyea and Grant Hill roads. 

Christine Napierski, who lives on Dutch Hill Terrace, said teenagers ride bicycles down Relyea Road, to get to Voorheesville and said that the number of young people will increase with this project and that the narrow, curvy road should be improved. She added that nearby Grant Hill Road has “dropoffs and no shoulders.”

She suggested, “If we’re going to be doubling the size of Weatherfield we have to improve the safety.” Napierski said she hopes the country club can “find ways to give back to the community by improving roads and making paths safer for walkers and bikers.”

Paul Miller, who is until the end of this month the Albany County legislator for the district, also voiced concerns about bicycle safety through the area. 

Cullinan, the country club’s president, said that, although the project will not be age-restricted, “Our anticipation is that the marketing of this is going to be geared towards 50 and up.” 

 Highway Superintendent Greg Wier told The Enterprise that Relyea Road would be the easier to fix than Grant Hill since the developer owns the land on both sides of Relyea. By requiring the developer to work with the town to widen the road, the “S” curves on Relyea could be made less sharp, he said.

“It’s very tight, very narrow going down through there,” he said of Relyea. 

Grant Hill is more complicated, since the land on one side is owned by the state and that on the other side is owned only in part by the country club; the rest belongs to Albany County, he said.

 

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