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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, January 12, 2006

Hearing: Town board listens to variety of views on Northeast Quadrant

By Holly Grosch

NEW SCOTLAND — About 100 people came out for a public information meeting on Tuesday about the zoning changes proposed for the town’s Northeast Quadrant.

In general, more people spoke against a developer’s proposal than spoke against a neighborhood group’s request for two-acre zoning.

The Kensington Woods developers were given 15 minutes to speak about their 282 residential units proposed for 267 acres around Hilton Road. And then the Northeast Neighborhood Association was given 15 minutes to explain its view. The Association is a citizens’ group that rallied their neighbors and organized a petition, 170 signatures strong, requesting that the town board rezone the whole area to permit only lots two acres or larger.

Currently under the existing medium-density residential zoning designation, 22,000 square feet per lot are permitted when public water and sewer are provided.

After both factions briefly introduced their proposals, most of the meeting was an open microphone for the public.

Some residents expressed concerns over water supply in the northeast section of town, water runoff as the result of development, environmental effects, increased traffic, housing density, and rural character.

Other residents expressed their desire to protect landowner’s rights, to embrace change, and that clustering housing as The Masullo Brother’s Builders proposes creates more open space rather than just two-acre lawns.

Things remained pretty cordial throughout the evening. Supervisor Ed Clark introduced the session as an opportunity for residents to become informed and for the town board "to listen."

"We’re not here to decide on the issue tonight," Clark said and "not to entertain a debate."

Public opinion

Tony Scardillo, who lives in Heldervale, said he moved to New Scotland 14 years ago "because of rural charm," a reason many gave throughout the night. "What disturbs me about this large-scale development," he said, is that the same thing happened in Heldervale 15 years ago and the fourth part of the development was never completed.

The roads where not paved properly, he said, and then the town had to pay for the road repair. Scardillo asked, what if the Kensington Woods water treatment plant fails or what if the Masullo Brothers and the Garrison Development Group get halfway through developing and stop"

The water and sewer will then be left up to the town, Scardillo said, "becoming a burden to the town of New Scotland."

Lou Masullo responded that the project will be bonded, and that he guarantees all the infrastructure will be put in place.

"We are working very hard to do the best we can with this acreage," Masullo said. He wants to build something that the town can be proud of so that house purchasers can have a place to work play and live, he said.

With this PUD, Masullo said, almost half of the acreage is still open space. If the land were to go to two acre zoning, then open space would not be protected.

Robert Griffin, the Northeast Neighborhood Association president, said, that he wanted to clarify a misconception. As a group, the association "is in support of development," he said. "We are not opposed to development on Krumkill...We are in support of development in the right density," he said.

Kensington Woods would "change the character of the whole town," Griffin said. It will start a sprawl effect, he said. While this proposal is for 264 acres, it starts a precedent for the 1,000 acres of vacant land currently in the northeast part of town. It will turn this "rural community into a suburban one," Griffin said. The association wants "sensible development," Griffin concluded.

Desiree Laz, who lives at 611 Krumkill Road, she said she has seen undesirable changes over the last 15 years. It takes her five to 10 minutes to get out of her driveway in the morning with all the commuter cars speeding down Krumkill, she said. She is very concerned about increased traffic with 282 new residences.

Edie Abrams, who lives on Route 85A, said she envisions the creation of a small village with mixed uses — shops with apartments on the second floor, and places for people of all incomes to live. She said she would like to see developers, landowners, and residents, with the town’s help compromise. She does not think imposing zoning on landowners is the best option and that a compromise should be worked out instead. "Can’t we all work together toward a town vision," she said.

Jim Finnigan, a Hilton Road resident for 20 years, said of the Kensington Woods proposal projected on the screen before him: "This is about how much a developer can make."

It’s not going to help the school taxes, Finnigan said. He encouraged the town board to consider what it is about to decide very seriously. "You are going to carve out the future of the town."

John Egan, was one of the many Residents’ Planning Advisory Committee members who spoke during the public input time, he had been the chairman of RPAC. "The facts, as I see them: Development is happening." And, so far, the development along Krumkill and in the northeast section of town has happened in a slow and steady way. He said he would like to see it continue in that manner. "What has worked should be extended," he said. Egan also requested that the RPAC recommendation be reviewed by the board.

Judy DeZalia, who lives on Hilton Road, said that there are already a lot of water problems on Hilton Road and testified how people have to buy water in the summertime.

Stephanie Martin, of Font Grove Road, spoke about how disruptive construction can be to the community. A builder has been drilling for well water near her home for a number of months and, she said, "My water has been messed up since October." The Enterprise wrote earlier how In New York State there is no right-to-water law; an existing homeowner has no more right-to the underground water supply than a new landowner drilling for a well.

Steve Schreiber, a 28-year resident was one of the first citizens to speak against the two-acre zoning proposal. "Two-acre lots can create their own type of sprawl," he said. "I’ve seen it on Altamont Road and Krumkill Road."

Schreiber said he would like some type of clustering of housing. One- or two- acre lots with houses spotted across a field is not a good idea, he said.

Nelson Kenney, spoke of how he has moved a number of times to find a rural community. In the ‘70’s, he lived in Clifton Park and, as that built out, he moved to Loudonville and now is living in New Scotland. "This is one of the last frontiers...one of the last open areas," he said as he urged the town board to protect it.

Another resident urged his fellow residents to keep an open mind. "Just to be against change for the sake of being against change is not a good idea," he said.

Bruce Shreffler used to live off of Carman Road in Guilderland, he said. He watched development fall out of the grasp of Guilderland’s town government; Carman Road is now a major thoroughfare, he said. It can take 20 minutes to get from Carman Road to Rotterdam. Krumkill Road is a sleepy road much like Carman used to be, he said.

Karen Moreau, who lives in Fuera Bush, which she pointed out is one of the most rural areas of town, said that most people don’t want a lot of houses in one area. But, when it comes down to it, she said, the real issue is how to acquire the most open space.

She said, in her opinion, the Kensington Woods development has addressed all the requirements of the zoning law and, since the planning board has already voted on its recommendation to the town board against rezoning to two acres, the town’s planning experts should garner some respect she said.

"This area has long been viewed as residential," because of the water supply available, Moreau said.

"What I see here in the PUD form is clustering...which meets a lot of the criteria of the town’s zoning," Moreau said.

The town board members can listen with their hearts to resident’s pleas, but when it comes down to making a final decision, the board has to consider what the law is, she said. And, while elected officials can hear people say not to develop the Northeast quadrant in this way, Moreau said, she can not envision any development that will accommodate the neighborhood association.

She added that there has been ample time over the year for people to get together and purchase the land as individuals or as a group, but that hasn’t happened so the existing landowners’ rights need to remain.

Dawn Hopper warned about water run-off, a problem she deals with as a neighbor to the Weathersfield development.

Anthony Genovesi said he was upset with the interference of a few people. He has lived in New Scotland his whole life and is now 74. The large landowners are being attacked, he said. His farm on Font Grove Road is hilly and a lot of the land can’t be developed, he said; two-acre lots would seriously limit the value of his land.

Other residents were concerned about the large amount of treated sewage water being funneled into a tributary and going into the Normanskill.

Some said they foresee this creating problems of erosion and flooding.

Board’s action

The next step in the zoning-request process is for each proposal to go before the planning board for a recommendation.

Town Attorney Michael Mackey said that the neighborhood association’s two-acre zoning proposal has to go back before the planning board because the wording is slightly different than before. Also, the town board has included within this zoning change a proposal to switch to commercial the industrial designation above the existing commercial zone along Route 85 .

Clark said at the conclusion of Tuesday night’s session that no final decision will be made this week by the town board, but the board does intend to proceeded with the process.

The next night, at Wednesday’s regularly-scheduled town board meeting, the board passed a resolution declaring its intentions to act as lead agency for the State’s environmental quality review in relation to the Kensington Woods project. But, under the advisement of the town’s special legal counsel for this project, Peter Barber, the board did not forward the PUD proposal on to the planning board yet.

However, the town board did vote to forward a bill on to Albany County’s planning board and New Scotland’s planning board, for their recommendations.

This proposed local law, drafted by Mackey, reads that the law’s purpose is to amend parcels within the medium density residential zone (MDR) to Residential Conservation (R2), a two-acre designation, and also rezone certain lands within the industrial zone to commercial.

The proposed bill states that the industrial land which is northeast of the former Delware & Hudson railroad line is to be rezoned to R2 and the industrial land southwest of the former railroad line is to be rezoned commercial.

Mackey said, by forwarding this zoning proposal, the board is not saying what it is in support of, but rather that the town wants to move forward with the review necessary studies.

Vlomankill land flows to Five Rivers

By Matt Cook

NEW SCOTLAND—A popular outdoor destination in New Scotland will be 10 percent larger after an acquisition.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced last Friday the upcoming purchase of 43 acres in New Scotland for Five Rivers Environmental Education Center. The Open Space Institute has worked out a deal to sell the land to the state for $113,000.

Five Rivers "has been an important preserve for the state for quite some time," said Joe Martens, president of the Open Space Institute. There are a number of parcels of land adjacent to Five Rivers that could be used for wildlife areas. "We’re adding another piece of the puzzle," Martens said.

The Open Space Institute purchased the land from the estate of the late Walt Miller and will now sell it to the DEC. It’s a typical move for the Open Space Institute, Martens said. The institute is a New York-based organization that works to permanently protect land from development.

"We’ve created brand-new state parks with our acquisitions," Martens said.

Martens said the institute has confidence in the state’s ability to preserve open space.

"In our experience, they do a very good job," he said. The state’s preservation efforts are most effective when it has a local volunteer organization backing it up, such as the Friends of Five Rivers, Martens said.

Five Rivers is one of five environmental education centers run by the DEC. The others are in Suffolk, Erie, Chenango, and Dutchess counties. Its 400 acres include wetlands, forests, and fields. There’s also an education building and 10 miles of trails used for hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing.

In 1973, Miller gave Five Rivers an access easement on his property for the Vlomankill trail, which follows the Vlomankill creek. Now, the center will own the trail and the land around it, creating a buffer between hikers and private property, said Maureen Wren, a DEC spokesperson.

Twenty acres of the acquisition is grassland; the rest is forest, Wren said. The grassland was formerly a farm, she said.

"Grassland in general, throughout the state, is dwindling," Wren said. The DEC is trying to preserve it, she said.

In late 2006, Wren said, Five Rivers will be drafting a management plan for the preserve.

"We’ll be reaching out to the public for a lot of that," she said.

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