Jeff Thomas proposes 26 apartments at center of Altamont

The Enterprise — Melissa Hale-Spencer
Altamont’s original train station, located alongside the tracks behind the Victorian station restored by the library, is on a 1.6-acre property.

ALTAMONT — Jeff Thomas wants to build a mixed-use development in the heart of the village. The proposed project would be at 120 Park Street, adjacent to the Altamont Free Library and behind the village post office.

The 1.6-acre parcel, which has the original Altamont train station, predating the station restored by the library, is, according to Albany County assessment rolls, owned by Timothy Coughtry with a full-market value of $217,330.

Thomas is seeking to build three stand-alone buildings on the land that would contain 26 one- and two-bedroom apartments with one building having 3,600 square feet of commercial space. The plan proposes 49 off-street parking spots.

The proposed building directly adjacent to the library would be two storeys with 3,600 square feet of commercial space on the bottom floor and four apartments of about 425 square feet each on the second floor, according to the site plan.

The second, and largest, proposed building would form an L adjacent to the post office parking lot and extend along Park Street. This building would be two storeys with 14 apartments that are about 1,200 square feet each.

The third proposed building would be two storeys, and would contain eight apartments at 1,000 square feet each.

Thomas, who lives in Knox on the Helderberg escarpment overlooking Altamont, had been very active in village real-estate development, owning and upgrading what he named the Altamont Corners shopping plaza; the Park House Apartments; and building the Brandle Meadows senior housing on the outskirts of the village. He also owns the gateway property on Route 146 rented to the State Employees’ Federal Credit Union, and he owns the post office building on Park Street where the United States Postal Service is a tenant.

Thomas’s proposal comes at a time when the town of Guilderland, where the village of Altamont is located, has received proposals in recent months for well over 1,000 apartment units.

 

The Enterprise — Sean Mulkerrin
A business proposal: A mixed-use development proposed for 120 Park Street in Altamont contains 3,600 square feet for commercial use.

 

 

Board concerns

Thomas presented his current proposal at a pre-application meeting on Monday where the village planning board had to determine if Thomas could address all of the engineering issues associated with the project: traffic, water and sewer, and stormwater management (the project is in a flood plain), among others.

The board agreed to let his proposal move forward, but not without a number of questions.

Brett Steenburgh, the project’s engineer, said that the proposed mixed-use development would have two entrances, one from Park Street and the other through the parking lot of the Altamont Free Library, which is allowed by an existing easement.  

Planning board member Deborah Hext expressed concern with traffic entering and exiting past the library because a lot of children’s activities take place there during the day; it is also well used by the elderly. Essentially, she said, a person steps out of the library and is almost immediately in the path of traffic.

Steenburgh told her that, at peak usage, which would be in the morning when people are leaving for work, there would be 25 to 30 cars entering and exiting past the library which would not typically generate a full traffic study under state Department of Transportation requirements.

Planning board member John Hukey pointed out that, according to village code, one-and-a-half parking spaces are required per unit, which would be 39; and that one parking spot is required for every 200 square feet of commercial space, which would be 18. In total, the project would require 57 parking spots.

Steenburgh responded that there are provisions in the village code to use on-street parking when considering the total number of spots needed. Up to 20 percent of parking could be on-street, Hext said.

In his experience, Steenburgh said, with mixed-use projects, apartment residents are up early and at work for most of the day. He added that none of the proposed apartments have more than two bedrooms, and that most will have one bedroom, which he felt made the proposed parking more than adequate to meet demand.

Tim Wilford, the board’s chairman, said that there is limited parking in the village and, although Steenburgh was allowed to use public parking when factoring the number of spots needed, that doesn’t mean the planning board has to allow it. Wilford also asked that the development team look for ways to limit or eliminate the ingress and egress through the library parking lot.

Later in the pre-application meeting, Thomas told the board: “I’d even consider making that all residential and stopping the pass-through to the library; we could keep it all residential.”

Dean Whalen, the village board’s liaison to the planning board, pointed out that the zoning of the Central Business District, where the project would be located, does not allow for just multi-family housing.

Only the proposed building next to the library, with commercial space on the first floor and apartments on the second floor, he said, would be allowed under the existing code. If the project were to stay as proposed, Whalen said, it would need a use variance.

Thomas said that he did not want to put a business in each building; he considered the three stand-alone buildings “the project.”

Thomas continued, “So it’s mixed-use; we have the residential, and we have the commercial — the commercial happens to be all in one building, rather than spreading it out.”

Donald Lee, the project’s attorney, told the board they would not be seeking a use variance. If it is decided that the project would move forward, Lee said, before the application reaches the planning board, the village code-enforcement officer would have to make a determination if the proposal complies with existing zoning. That’s the process, Lee said, that the project team would follow.

Wilford responded, “So it is very understood, you are aware that there is language in the definition of that district that may have to alter what you are doing.”

The development team agreed with Wilford.

At the end of the meeting, Thomas stood up and said he wanted to offer a little more of his vision for the area. The goal of his proposal is to match the village’s existing architecture, he said.

To that end, Thomas proposed upgrading the village post office, a mid-century brick building constructed during the Eisenhower administration. Thomas said, as he did when he purchased the building, that he wants to incorporate more Victorian-style features like adding a tower with a cupola at the building’s entrance.

“I like building distinctive properties,” he said at the time, adding, “I’m a real estate developer with a particular fondness for Altamont.”

Whalen then spoke up and said that, since the public had not been notified about the post office proposal, the planning board could not consider it.

doedwhite
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Jeff Thomas Complex

Where are people going to park that go to the Home Front Cafe and the Library. This area is going to be like another street, maybe Thomas Street. No I don't think so, because in a few years he won't want people to associate him with this complex. People at Brandle Meadows have had all sorts of problems and he says not his problem. I can only imagine the traffce on Park Street, with Creekside being there along with the Post Office and Key Bank and then adding many more vehicles from his complex. Altamont has one condo building and one just outside of the village and I don't think the village needs anything like this within the village limits.

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