Knox establishes 80-acre MRD after 4-year battle

The Enterprise — Noah Zweifel

Supervisor Vasilios Lefkaditis presents information about the multi-use recreational district prior to Tuesday’s vote. The motion to establish the district passed unanimously.

KNOX — The Knox Town Board has voted unanimously to establish an 80-acre Multi-use Recreational District at the junction of routes 156 and 157, ending a four-year battle that has generated some of the town hall’s most heated moments since Supervisor Vasilios Lefkaditis first proposed a business-friendly zoning adjustment in 2016, the first year he was in office. 

The current board was elected partly on candidates’ pledges to establish the district.

The change will allow for a wider spectrum of uses than was allowed in the former primarily residential district, including general retail stores, studios, and restaurants. But, unlike a business district, which is what Lefkaditis initially proposed, funeral homes, laundromats, or shopping centers will not be permitted.

The business district proposal was reconfigured as an MRD proposal two years ago in what Lefkaditis has called a compromise with residents who were concerned about retaining the town’s rural character. 

The MRD’s establishment was all but certain once voters re-elected Lefkaditis last year alongside two new board members — Republican Dennis Cyr and Democrat June Springer — who expressed support for the proposal during their campaigns, replacing the two members of the board — Democrats Earl Barcomb and Dennis Barber — who killed the proposal when the board last voted on it in Oct. of 2019. 

Critics of the proposal argued that it went against residents’ wishes for a rural atmosphere, as determined in the town’s comprehensive plan. It was inconsistency with the comprehensive plan — along with concerns about traffic and the environment — that led the Albany County Planning Board to recommend against the proposal in February 2019. 

The district is a patchwork since residents who opposed it were allowed to remove their properties.

Lefkaditis resubmitted an MRD application earlier this year, and the Albany County Planning Board deferred to local consideration. Delays occurred at the local level, with the Knox Planning Board requesting extensions before ultimately issuing an approval. 

Lefkaditis told The Enterprise after the vote that the MRD is “a good step towards offering the community some much needed conveniences. The existing businesses can now grow responsibly, employ locals, and offer more services to the community.”

The district currently includes a greenhouse and a woodshop as well as a long-time restaurant that closed years ago.

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