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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 27, 2005

Traffic plan plotted for nursing home

By Nicole Fay Barr

GUILDERLAND — First Columbia’s plans for a new nursing home at Mercycare Lane off of Western Avenue were easily approved last Wednesday.

Residents at a July zoning board meeting had expressed concerns about added traffic at a busy and sometimes dangerous intersection.

The plans now include opening the barricaded part of Windingbrook Drive, a town road that runs from Western Avenue almost to the back of the facility’s Mercycare Lane property. Vehicles will be encouraged to leave the nursing home by using Windingbrook Drive, which has a traffic light at its Route 20 intersection, instead of using Mercycare Lane, which does not.

Work must be done first, however, to upgrade Mercycare Lane, now owned by the Mercycare corporation, to meet the specifications of a town road. The town board then must adopt the lane as a town road.

After hearing from a town-designated engineer last Wednesday that First Columbia’s plans look safe and well-designed, the zoning board granted the company a special-use permit.

The permit is for an "assisted-living facility" with 84 beds on Mercycare Lane, behind the already-existing Our Lady of Mercy Life Center. The new building will be two-and-a-half stories, accommodating three floors.

A plan for a similar facility, to be called Rosewood Estates, was approved by the town in 1998. First Columbia had "partnership issues that fell through," said representative Mark Bette earlier of why the first project was never built.

At the first public hearing on the new project, in July, the board heard from some residents and representatives of the Guilderland Public Library, which is on Western Avenue and accessed by Mercycare Lane. They said that, while they supported the project, they were worried about adding traffic to the already busy intersection.

Robert Ganz, president of the library’s board of trustees, said then that a librarian’s car had been hit as she tried to turn onto Route 20 from Mercycare Lane. She spent five days in the hospital, he said.

"We must have the town or state prohibit left turns from Mercycare Lane...If they don’t do that, we’ll all meet at funerals," Ganz had said.

Laurel Bohl, who lives on Western Avenue, 100 feet from Mercycare Lane, had told the board at the July meeting that she was in a serious car accident trying to turn into her driveway. Her mother, too, was in a similar accident, she had said.

"A good solution is to extend the median strip in the middle," Bohl had said. "You can’t divert traffic from Mercycare Lane without a light or a median. New signage to direct people to Windingbrook Drive won’t do it."

Mercycare Lane, off of a busy stretch of Route 20, is a dead-end road that currently serves the Our Lady of Mercy Life Center, the St. Peter’s Addiction Recovery Center, and the Guilderland Public Library.

Town planner Jan Weston and zoning board Chairman Bryan Clenahan suggested earlier that Mercycare Lane become a town road, a suggestion that the corporation ultimately adopted.

Making Mercycare Lane a town road has been discussed for years, highway superintendent Todd Gifford told The Enterprise in July. Work must be done on the road first, he said, but he was not opposed to the idea.

"The ball is in their court," Gifford had said of the corporation that owns Mercycare Lane.

This week, Gifford told The Enterprise that the corporation has agreed to bring Mercycare Lane up to town specifications. This means it will have to be totally reconstructed, he said.

After the corporation pays to do this, Gifford said, the town board would adopt the lane as a town road. The town would then be in charge of regular maintainence on the road, he said.

Gifford said earlier that a connection exists between Mercycare Lane and Windingbrook Drive. That path has to be upgraded to accommodate vehicle traffic, he said. Most of Windingbrook Drive is a town road.

Mercycare Lane is a block from Windingbrook Drive, which leads to the Fairwood Apartments and the Guilderland YMCA and ends at Nott Road.

Last Wednesday, Ken Johnson, of town-designated Delaware Engineering, first said he felt that traffic problems at the intersection of Route 20 and Mercycare Lane are minor and sight distance trouble could be fixed by simply trimming hanging tree limbs.

At first, board members were confused by this.

Clenahan asked Johnson twice if he were sure about this. Johnson said he was.

"You’re indicating that turning west on Western Avenue has only minor vegetation issues"" asked board member Sharon Cupoli. "I thought there was quite a bit of site distance issues. People who lived in the area said they had car accidents....I’m a little confused."

Johnson then explained that drivers will be encouraged to leave the facility by using Windingbrook Drive. They will be able to turn safely onto Route 20 from there, he said, because the intersection has a traffic light.

"You feel confident that Windingbrook Drive can handle extra traffic"" asked Clenahan.

The town upgraded Windingbrook Drive a few years ago, Johnson said. "I don’t think there’s a lot of lighting there, but the road is okay," he said.

"And there’s no question Mercycare Lane is going to be a town road"" asked Clenahan.

"No," said Johnson. "That’s what makes the whole thing work."

Johnson also said he was fine with First Columbia’s plans for water, sewer, and stormwater management. With no public comment, the board unanimously approved the project.

Other business

In other business, the board:

— Continued the application of Renaissance Floral, of 1561 Western Ave., to amend its special-use permit to allow the display of garden statues and other items outside.

David Michael Schmidt, owner of the company, has previously been before the zoning board on this issue. Board members have said that the many statues on the lawn and parking lot of his business make it look cluttered and distracts drivers.

Board member James Sumner has been especially adamant about not wanting to grant Schmidt a permit amendment since he’s been violating the conditions of his original 2002 special-use permit by the outside displays and other issues.

Schmidt spent some time arguing with Sumner last Wednesday about difficulties he’s having finding space for his displays.

The board then agreed to continue the application for Schmidt to provide a more detailed plan showing the exact plotting of green space, parking, and displays; and

— Granted a variance to Roberto Santucci, of 7333 Church Road, to construct a garage in a side yard.

DWI case not heard in court

By Nicole Fay Barr

GUILDERLAND — The Albany County District Attorney’s office voiced its outrage this week that driving-while-intoxicated evidence, after a Delhi college police officer was arrested in Guilderland, was not heard.

But the assistant district attorney scheduled to prosecute the case had failed to show up in Guilderland Town Court.

Judge Steven J. Simon said he couldn’t comment on a specific case but, speaking in general terms, he said, "We can’t hold a hearing or trial without both sides there."

William Conboy III, the assistant district attorney handling the case, wasn’t informed the suspect, Jason Horvath, of Voorheesville, was scheduled to appear in court, Richard Arthur, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office told The Enterprise.

Simon’s chief court clerk, Becky Letko, insisted that Conboy was informed of Horvath’s hearing, months in advance.

"It was scheduled in June and put in his mailbox," she told The Enterprise.

Since Conboy didn’t show up to prosecute Horvath, the test results showing Horvath’s blood-alcohol content and other evidence from the night of his arrest weren’t presented in court.

Simon is running for re-election on the Republican ticket this year. The district attorney, Democrat David Soares, has made a point of taking a tough stand on prosecuting DWI cases.

Conboy asked Simon to re-open Horvath’s case, but that request was denied, Arthur said.

"Somebody screwed up here, either the court or us," he said. "We think it was them. To refuse to re-open because of a clerical error, we feel is inexcusable."

The Enterprise asked Simon, again in general terms and not referring to Horvath’s case, if he ever postpones hearings or trials, if an assistant district attorney doesn’t show up. "It’s not a usual thing," he said. "It depends on the circumstances."

Asked how often he’s re-opened a closed hearing after an assistant district attorney has requested it, Simon said, "In my 25 years, it’s possible it’s happened. But, it doesn’t happen that often that both sides aren’t here for a case."

For traffic infractions, if a trial is set, the arresting officer has to be present or the case will be dismissed, Simon said. This is more common, he said.

Guilderland Town Court prints a calendar that lists the scheduled criminal trials and hearings, said both Simon and Letko.

Horvath’s Sept. 13 hearing was scheduled in June, Letko said. Hearings like this remain on the court calendar until the date passes or the hearing is canceled, she said.

Every court calendar, Simon said, again speaking in general terms, "is given to all parties involved," except an offender’s defense attorney, who is notified of a case by phone or other means.

"The DA has an office in the court," Simon said of the district attorney, "and the calendar’s put in his box along with other information."

When changes are made to the calendar, a new one is printed out, Letko said, but the previously-scheduled cases remain on the calendar. Therefore, Horvath’s hearing was listed on several calendars from June to September.

"As I understand it, every week he clears his box out," Letko said of Conboy. She’s sure that notice of Horvath’s hearing was put in Conboy’s mailbox, she said.

The court does not usually have problems with its calendar system, Simon said. He reiterated that, speaking generally and not about Horvath or Conboy, an assistant district attorney is almost always present to prosecute cases.

Letko, too, said that, in her nine years with the court, she’s not aware of any time when an assistant district attorney has not shown up for a case.

Conboy is in Guilderland court every Thursday and he picks up his court calendar for the following week then, Arthur said. He insisted that Conboy was never informed about Horvath’s case.

When an assistant district attorney doesn’t show up for a hearing, Arthur said, a judge can adjourn the case for 24 hours. Simon should have done this, Arthur said, or he should have tried to call Conboy’s cell phone that night.

In his statement asking Simon to re-open the hearing, Conboy asked for a fair opportunity to present the evidence, Arthur said.

"The judge ruled that the Tuesday hearing had been the fair opportunity and that it had come and gone," Arthur said.

Two weeks after the hearing, Horvath pleaded guilty to speeding, 62 miles per hour in a 40-mile-per-hour zone, on the night of his crash. Simon then ordered him to pay a $100 fine and a $55 surcharge.

The arrest

On April 26, Guilderland Police said earlier, Horvath crashed his car into a tree on the wooded side of Kings Road. He was extricated from the car by firemen and flown to the hospital by helicopter.

The crash was caused by both Horvath’s intoxication and speeding, Guilderland Lieutenant Curtis Cox said earlier. Horvath was badly hurt in the accident, Cox said of the 29-year-old.

Horvath was driving an old police car at the time, Cox said, but the car was no longer owned by any police department.

At the time of the crash, Horvath worked as a full-time officer at the State University of New York’s College of Technology at Delhi and as a part-time officer with the Delhi village police. But, he was off duty at the time of the arrest.

Joel Smith, director of college advancement at SUNY Delhi, told The Enterprise in April that Horvath was "an employee in good standing." Asked if he would be penalized or fired for the driving-while-intoxicated arrest, Smith said it would be presumptuous for the university to take action until all the facts of the case are in.

This week, Smith said that Horvath hasn’t worked since the accident and that he’s been suspended without pay since June. The suspension will continue, Smith said, "while we pursue the disciplinary actions within the guidelines of the state-negotiated collective bargaining agreement."

A representative of Horvath’s union, Counsel 82, could not be reached for comment.

Horvath joined the SUNY police force in September of 2001, Smith said earlier. He left in January of 2002 to work for the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, Smith said, but he returned to SUNY full-time in October of that year.

Horvath is no longer employed with the village’s police department. He could not be reached for comment.

Two arrested for DWI crashes

By Nicole Fay Barr

GUILDERLAND — Two Guilderland men were involved in unrelated crashes Sunday and were both arrested for driving while intoxicated.

The drivers weren’t seriously injured in the crashes, although the Jaws of Life — a set of tools used to cut metal and extricate a person trapped in a car — had to be used in both cases.

On Sunday at 12:44 a.m., Guilderland Police say Ryan P. Glennon, 18, hit two parked cars on Vosburgh Road with his pickup truck.

Glennon, who was alone in his truck, then drove west on Route 20 and, just west of the Pineview Drive intersection, hit a guardrail, said Lieutenant Curtis Cox. Glennon’s truck flipped into a ditch, Cox said.

After the guardrail crash, Glennon was trapped inside his truck with multiple injuries, Cox said. Emergency workers used the Jaws of Life to get him out of the truck, police say.

Glennon, who lives at 203 Pinewood Drive, in Guilderland, was taken to Albany Medical Center. A spokesperson at the hospital told The Enterprise Wednesday that she had no information available about Glennon’s condition, which probably means he was released from the hospital earlier.

Glennon was intoxicated at the time of the accidents, Cox said, and he was later arrested for driving while intoxicated.

He was also charged with first-degree reckless endangerment, criminal mischief, and multiple vehicle and traffic violations. More charges are pending, Cox said, since Glennon is under age and was possibly drinking at a public place.

Also on Sunday, Wesley M. Trumpler, 24, crashed his car on Route 146 in Guilderland Center, near Depot Road.

Trumpler, who lives at 26 Brandle Road, outside of Altamont, was intoxicated and speeding, Cox said. His car spun in a circle, knocked down a telephone pole, and then hit a tree, Cox said.

The Jaws of Life were used to extricate Trumpler’s passenger from the vehicle, police say. The current condition of the passenger is unknown, Cox said.

Guilderland paramedics and the Altamont Rescue Squad took both Trumpler and his passenger to Albany Medical Center where they were treated for injuries.

Trumpler was later charged with driving while intoxicated, Cox said, and more charges are expected.

World War I: ‘The most formative event of the 20th Century’

By Nicole Fay Barr

GUILDERLAND — When Dan White was a child, a multi-volume history of World War I was always a presence in his living room.

"It exercised a certain fascination in me," said White, a history professor who is leading several discussions on the war at the Guilderland Public Library.

White, 66, read a lot about World War II as a child "because it just happened," he said. He then studied the first World War.

"I’ve always liked history," he told The Enterprise. The son of German immigrants, White was especially interested in the relations the United States had to other countries.

Thomas Barnes, a reference librarian at Guilderland, helped organize the World War I series. He asked White to be the main speaker in the series after finding him on the Internet.

After White’s first discussion earlier this month, Barnes told The Enterprise that he made a good selection.

"Dan was just great," Barnes said. "He was able to answer questions and recall all this information and put it in an accessible answer without stumbling. It was just amazing to me."

"It was wonderful," White said of his first discussion. "The audience was very engaged. They kept asking good questions. I enjoyed it and found it very satisfying."

Many of the audience members had already read about World War I, White said, so they had a knowledge base.

On four nights of the six-week series, White is giving a prologue to a pre-selected documentary.

"I’ll give a short introduction that tries to alert people to some of the contents of the film they’re going to see," he said. "Then, preferably, I’ll go where questions take me."

The library gives White a set topic to discuss.

"The first one was centered on how President Woodrow Wilson came to believe the U.S. had to enter the war," White said.

White watches the films ahead and, while he knows a lot of background on each subject, does some research.

Each topic he’s been given is relevant to World War I and the topics give him a solid basis, White said.

But, he said, he will elaborate on some areas. For example, he said, on Nov. 3, he will comment on a documentary called Peace Making.

"It focuses heavily on Woodrow Wilson and, particularly, his relationship with his allies and the League of Nations," White said. "That’s all important but, when the discussion comes, I’ll add to that."

Asked why World War I should be studied, White said, "It’s part of our past. I think World War I was the most formative event of the 20th Century, probably because I come to it from a European perspective."

The theme of the library series is important, he said, because it highlights America’s arrival in the war and the beginning of the end for European primacy in world affairs.

"This is partly because of the optimism that came with industrialism and science," White said. "For years, Europeans killed each other and used the benefits of science and technology to do it....The whole idea that the world gets better with progress reveals a different face altogether."

World War I, he said, was "not just the Doughboys climbing out of the trenches."

White, a California native, graduated from Stanford University and earned a doctorate degree at Harvard.

He taught for years at MIT and, in 1977, came to teach history at the University at Albany.

White taught a graduate course on World War I for years. He has also written several books, including Lost Comrades: Socialists of the Front Generation, 1918-1945, and numerous journal articles on the war.

The six-week library series is being funded through a grant from National Video Resources, in cooperation with the American Library Association, and with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Two years ago, the Guilderland library was selected by the same group out of many libraries to receive a grant to produce a program on the 1960’s.

Tonight (Thursday), White will discuss The American People in Wartime, highlighting the effects of the war on the American economy and citizens.

On Nov. 3, he will discuss Woodrow Wilson’s global peace efforts. And, on Nov. 10, White will host After the War — The Turbulent Years, about war’s end and its impact on America.

"It’s a good series and it’s found a good audience," White said.

Other exhibits

In addition to selecting White to speak about World War I, Barnes chose two professors from the United States Military Academy at West Point to lecture about the military aspects of the war.

Colonel Lance A. Betros spoke about the United States mobilizing an army in World War I and Lieutenant Colonel James T. Seidule spoke about the war’s introduction of new weapons, such as the tank, machine gun, grenade, and poisonous gas.

Barnes also gathered World War I artifacts, lent to the library by members of the community, and put them on display in the lobby. They include rifles, uniforms, and other memorabilia, he said.

Someone also loaned an ambulance from that era that is parked in the library’s front lobby, Barnes said.

The library has also selected four films on World War I to include in the series, Barnes said.

Three have already been shown — The Big Parade, described as "an effective mixture of wartime humor, anti-war propaganda, and a love story"; Hell’s Angels, which the library describes as an "extravagant spectacle of the WWI air war"; and Paths of Glory, which the library calls a gripping film about a common soldier and the mistakes of his superiors.

On Nov. 8 at 7 p.m., The Roaring Twenties, about the rise and fall of World War I Doughboys will be played.

Leonard Zapala, director of the Menands Public Library, is presenting the films and leading a discussion on them.

Also, on Nov. 16 at 7 p.m., Charles Gablehouse will lead a discussion, "World War I Aviation and Its Precursors." He will discuss the history behind the film, Hell’s Angels, and talk about famous aviators from that time.

VFW leader arrested

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

ALTAMONT — Antonio Ferraioli, formerly a leader of Altamont’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post, was arrested this month on a felony charge — offering and filing a false instrument.

The Albany County Sheriff’s Department says that he intentionally offered a false report of proceeds to the New York State Racing and Wagering Board on behalf of the Altamont VFW. He was arrested on Oct. 13.

Ferraioli, 51, of 6230 Hawes Road, did not return calls from The Enterprise asking for comment about the arrest.

The VFW Post sells bell-jar tickets, which people buy for a dollar apiece. Some of the money from each box of tickets, in a program overseen by the wagering board, goes to those who draw winning tickets, some goes to the group that purchased the box of tickets — in this case the VFW Post, and some goes to the state.

Al Devenpeck, a trustee of the Altamont VFW Post, a veteran of the Vietnam War who joined the post in 1975, sent a letter last year to the 300 members of the post outlining improprieties he believed were taking place at the post. The letter is also signed by Darlene Stanton, from the post’s ladies auxiliary.

Devenpeck said he was prompted to write the letter after he had spent more than $3,000 out of his own pocket to build a new fence around the horseshoe court at the post.

"For a very long time, we have been told that we have no money," he wrote, causing members to pay for things out-of-pocket. He said his request for an outside audit was denied.

This led Devenpeck to obtain copies of invoices from the company that sold the post its tickets, he said.

The same pattern could be seen for two years, he said, but the post had not investigated further back than that.

"We were prevented from going further back because of the cost of the research," he said, stating that copies of checks on microfilm or microfiche had to be paid for.

Last December, Ferraioli resigned, Devenpeck said.

Devenpeck said he felt "sick and disgusted" when the discrepancies came to light.

He called the wagering board a year ago, last October, he said. "They told us that, had we not called, they were a short time away from locking our doors because of 18 months of quarterly commissions not being paid." That amounted to over $2,500, he said.

Asked about the morale at the post in light of the allegations, Devenpeck said, "It’s my opinion the people feel better. Our own house is being put in order."

He also said, "I can assure you of one thing: There is no vendetta nor is there any ax to grind whatsoever. Our only wish is to sweep the dirt off the floor of our own organization."


Daniel Toomey, a spokesman for the wagering board, told The Enterprise on Tuesday, "The matter has been referred to the Albany County Sheriff’s Department. Once the department has concluded its investigation, we will proceed with ours."

Toomey said the board conducts roughly 17,000 investigations annually. While the Altamont investigation was initiated because of accusations of wrong-doing, he said, the majority are routine checks of the system.

Asked about the number of violations annually, he said, "probably hundreds," but they can range from "something simple," like a worker not displaying proper identification to something serious like embezzlement. "If it involves a criminal matter, we’re required to turn it over to law enforcement," said Toomey.

Michael Monteleone, a senior investigator with the Albany County Sheriff's Department, said his department was contacted by field investigators with the wagering board and began an investigation of the Altamont VFW Post several months ago.

The sheriff’s department used documentation gathered by the Altamont VFW and presented it to the Albany County District Attorney’s Office, Monteleone said.

Assistant District Attorney Christopher Baynes reviewed the files from the VFW along with the wagering board’s reports, said Monteleone.

"The avenue of larceny was initially pursued in the complaint," Monteleone said. "We attempted to document it. We presented evidence to the district attorney."

Richard Arthur, spokesman for the district attorney, outlined for The Enterprise a "general principle" his office follows: "We base our charges on what we think we can convict, based on the evidence submitted to the office for review."

Referring to the VFW and other charitable organizations, Arthur said, "The reality is that organizations like this are not set up to deal with crime. They’re generally collegial and trusting. From our point of view, if 12 people had access to the cash register, it’s very difficult to convict one of them."

The charge of offering and filing a false instrument was the only charge the district attorney’s office felt it could successfully prosecute, Monteleone said, although there may be more charges later.

"I wouldn’t say the case is entirely closed," said Monteleone.

Arthur also said, "There may need to be additional things investigated."

Asked what false instrument Ferraioli is accused of filing, Monteleone said, "A quarterly report to the New York State Racing and Wagering Board to document proceeds. Those moneys are required to be deposited in a dedicated bank account. We were able to find a report filed by Mr. Ferraioli that did not match bank records of deposit made."

Ferraioli will appear in City of Albany Police Court, because the instrument was filed in Albany, Monteleone said. Ferraioli is charged with a Class E felony, the lowest of felonies, and can carry a prison term in excess of a year, he said.

Altamont committee recommends water for senior housing complex
waits until source is proven

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

ALTAMONT — The current village administration has taken a different tact than the previous one on granting municipal water to a senior housing complex planned for outside the village line.

Last Thursday, a committee headed by Mayor James Gaughan, empowered with making recommendations to Guilderland’s zoning and planning boards, said water should be granted to the senior housing project only after the village water supply was proven adequate.

In January, an earlier administration had granted water to the project with no conditions attached.

The village’s current water supply, from reservoir and well, is taxed so the village hired an engineering firm, which found a source on Brandle Road, just outside the village line. That source is not on line because of legal challenges.

Jeff Thomas, the developer of the senior project, seemed unperturbed after last Thursday’s meeting. "We’ve always planned on having an additional source," he said of his hopes to find a high-volume well on his Brandle Road property. "We’re going to continue to go forward," he told The Enterprise after the meeting.

About 20 people attended the committee meeting, a number of them elderly village residents who have been supporters of Thomas’s project.

The Enterprise reminded Thomas that less than 10 months ago he had stood in the same room and said the project would be dead if the village board didn’t promise him water that night; it complied.

Asked what had changed since then, Thomas said, "We would have lost interest. I had an option on the property."

Although Thomas had initially said he planned to open the complex, called Brandle Meadows, in January of 2006, he said, last Thursday, "This is a lengthy process."

He also reminded The Enterprise that, in response to a Jan. 13 editorial stating the then-village board would have been wise to wait to be sure it had a secure water source before granting water outside the village, he had written a Jan. 20 letter to the editor in which he said, "Let me also clearly state that I will not allow this project to in any way jeopardize the village water supply. If, by the time I am ready to break ground, it cannot be substantiated that our project will not put at risk the village’s water supply, I will delay the groundbreaking until such time that it can."

"We have a commitment not to jeopardize the village," said Thomas on Thursday.

Water promise

In January, under Mayor Paul DeSarbo’s administration, the village board voted, over the objection of its engineers and its superintendent of public works, to circumvent the moratorium on granting water outside the village and promised village water to the Thomas project, without any conditions.

Tim McIntyre, the superintendent of public works, had said at the January meeting that he couldn’t support giving water to Brandle Meadows until new water sources, in the works, were reliably functioning.

Keith O’Hara, project engineer with Barton & Loguidice, the firm hired by the village to oversee its water projects, disagreed at the January meeting with the developer’s water-need estimates for the complex. He said that the village's water system had been close to running out of water and cautioned that the added drain from the senior complex could be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

New wells were scheduled to be on-line in 2006 but O’Hara warned, "We just want everybody to be aware that we can't know if something comes up."

Paul Wein, Thomas’s lawyer, dismissed these concerns as "silly" at the January meeting and told the board that, if the engineers couldn't produce more water by January of 2006, when Thomas’s senior housing complex was to be completed, "then maybe what you should consider doing is not holding up this project, but fire your engineers and get some guys who can do it right."

Contingent upon proven water source

This month, the advisory committee members, who all said they supported the senior-housing project, agreed with the viewpoint Superintendent of Public Works McIntyre had expressed back in January.

McIntyre, who sits on the committee, said Thursday, "Once the connection is made, I don’t think there would be an issue. Once it proves itself."

"Proving itself is critical," agreed Maurice McCormick, another committee member who chairs the village’s zoning board.

He also said, "I don't have a problem with us supplying water and sewer. But you can’t do that if you jeopardize current village residents."

Stephen Parachini, another committee member who chairs the village’s planning board, agreed. He said it troubled him "to discuss extending water outside village boundaries; we basically have a moratorium."

Committee member Kerry Dineen, a village trustee, said, "I agree. It has to be contingent upon a new source."

Donald Cropsey Jr., a non-voting member of the committee who works as the zoning administrator for both the town of Guilderland and the village of Altamont, asked the mayor for "a history of what’s transpired."

In the spring elections, where water was a major issue, Gaughan and Dineen, running together, along with Dean Whalen ousted the incumbents. Gaughan responded to Cropsey’s question, beginning with that election: "This administration...began a set of processes to raise awareness." He referred to public-education sessions and website information on water needs.

"The bottom line," said Gaughan, "is the village has only one well and a sometimes reservoir...It needs to have a supplemental water source for it to deal with future expansion...We’re involved in a legal suit that has delayed our attempts to secure a water source. So we’re in suspension...It’s no secret the predilection of the current village is to be very circumspect about being sacrosanct...."

A bit later in the water discussion, Gaughan said, "We thought early on this issue would be resolved, but that’s on delay."

"If the village secures the additional source, is there a problem supplying this project"" asked Cropsey.

"I say no," replied Gaughan.

Although citizen member Chris Marshall and the mayor remained silent on the issue of making water for Brandle Meadows contingent on securing a proven source, Dineen said, "I think you have a consensus."

Gaughan responded by turning to McCormick and reiterating, "You said it would be contingent on another source with that contingency having been met."

McCormick said that, from being on the zoning board, he adopts the stance of always looking to protect the village first.

The new water source, also on Brandle Road, has been delayed by legal action.

Convoluted history

In July of 2004, the Guilderland Town board approved a re-zone for Thomas’s 15 acres on Brandle Road, without which the project could not have gone forward.

Guilderland Supervisor Kenneth Runion has said the re-zone was based on two facts — a need for senior housing was established, and the project would have water from the village of Altamont.

Thomas’s plans at the time — to develop 14.6 acres with 80 housing units — represented a tenfold density increase over what would have been allowed in an agricultural district. The town board approved the re-zone at the same meeting it also approved a moratorium on building in the rural western part of Guilderland.

The town would never have approved such a re-zone without the promise of municipal water, Runion has said.

The board based its approval on a letter it received before the vote from then-Mayor DeSarbo, Runion said. The letter stated, "The developer seeks village water and sewer services, a necessity to the project. The village can handle this, but will need to lift the moratorium on water service."

At the exact same time, on July 6, 2004, that the town board was meeting to approve the re-zone for Thomas, the village board was meeting and questioning DeSarbo about his letter. The trustees had not voted on the water commitment.

As the town board was approving Thomas’s re-zone, the village board was telling residents that it had not promised water to Thomas’s project.

In January, the village board then promised Thomas water, despite its moratorium, which is still ongoing.

Michael and Nancy Trumpler also own land on rural Brandle Road outside the village where Altamont drilled and found water. The Trumplers signed a contract last year agreeing to sell about five acres, with the wells, to the village.

The Trumplers were upset then to learn about Thomas’s re-zone because they had earlier had to scale back plans for a place for Nancy Trumpler’s elderly mother to live on Brandle Road since the town restricted building in an agricultural district. They also said they had been told that the wells on their land would be used only for water in the village, which they are still agreeable to, but not for an outside developer, and they had procedural concerns.

In March, the Trumplers filed papers in Albany County Supreme Court to have a judge decide whether the village’s contract for the five-acre site is legal and binding; they sought no money from the village.

The village responded by filing counterclaims, amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars, against the Trumplers. E. Guy Roemer, the village’s attorney, told The Enterprise earlier that the counterclaims were to enforce the contract and for damages due to the delay and increased costs to the village. Roemer is being paid $125 an hour to defend the village against the Trumplers’ suit.

In June, Thomas sued the Trumplers for $17 million, over what he called interference with his plans to build the senior-housing project. His lawyer said the suit was not over money; Thomas just wanted the Trumplers to drop their suit.

The Trumplers’ lawyer, Michael Englert, said Thomas filed the lawsuit for "retaliation against the Trumplers for daring to go to court" to seek direction on the option agreement.

In August, Runion suggested that, if the town had received village opinion on Thomas’s re-zone last year, the current litigation problems might not exist.

Guilderland’s zoning board will discuss the Brandle Meadows application for a special-use permit in November.

Other concerns

This is the second time the Altamont committee has met, Gaughan said. The first time was to advise the town on its rural agricultural plan for western Guilderland, which the town board adopted last week.

The committee was created by Guilderland town law this summer. Any proposals for land in Guilderland that is within 1,200 feet of Altamont’s border or its infrastructure is first reviewed by the committee.

If the Altamont committee disapproves of the project, it needs a supermajority from the town’s planning or zoning board to pass.

Gaughan said Thursday’s recommendations, because of the "high interest," will be presented at the village board meeting Nov. 1 and then hand-carried to Guilderland Town Hall to arrive by the Nov. 2 zoning board meeting.

In the past, the zoning board has declined to vote on cases where it has not received information a week in advance.

The Altamont committee also agreed on Thursday about the need to connect Brandle Meadows with the village by sidewalks. They discussed several options outlined in a memo from town planner Jan Weston.

Also, McIntyre recommended that a village engineer review the plans for water and sewer connections.

Cropsey asked if the village would take over maintenance of the system.

"It depends on the design," said McIntyre. "I’m not a big fan of pump stations." He said the village prefers gravity feed to the furthest point possible.

On water lines, McIntyre said, "I’m trying to avoid having a dead end...so you don’t have stagnant water, so you don’t have water sitting."

Marshall raised concerns about so much parking at Brandle Meadows.

Frances Bossolini, engineer for the project, said that Brandle Meadows will have 72 units with two parking spaces for each unit, plus nine or 10 additional spaces for guests.

Seventy-two of those parking spaces, one for each unit, will be inside a garage, he said.

"We gave a lot of attention to the fact none of this will be visible from the road," said Thomas, stating the parking spaces will be screened by trees.

"You’ll look into a village green with a pond," he said, describing it as "very aesthetic."

Throughout the 50-minute meeting, Gaughan reiterated his support for the Brandle Meadows project.

For instance, in talking about sidewalks, he said, "Rather than put the onus on one entity...this is a team effort...We need to add value to this...and show we’re in good faith to work with the developer."

He also said, "I want to make sure we’re not ordering a developer to do something unreasonable."

In the midst of the water discussion, Gaughan said, "In no way have I heard any objection to the project and the clients it is to serve, is that true""

"Totally," came the reply from committee members as several nodded their heads in agreement.

At that point, Cropsey, who looks to be in his forties, said, "I think they should lower the age to 45" — a comment that was greeted with widespread laughter.

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