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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 21, 2006

Moreau’s lot fees amended

By Rachel Dutil

NEW SCOTLAND – Developer David Moreau will save $2,600 when he writes out his check to the town of New Scotland.

Last month, Moreau went before the town board to contest the lot fees for a subdivision of his property. He would have had to pay $3,000 for a minor subdivision on his land because his property on Youmans Road is in a commercial zone.

On Dec. 8, 2004, the town board voted to increase lot fees for properties in commercial and industrial zones, requiring that all subdivisions of five acres or more, or 500 feet of road frontage, go before the planning board. The board increased the fees from $200 to $1,500 for applications that must go before the planning board.

Prior to that 2004 decision, all subdivisions were subject to the same $200-per-lot fee, Paul Cantlin, the town’s zoning administrator and chief building inspector, told The Enterprise.

Town board member Richard Reilly, at last week’s meeting, said: "If this fee schedule is having unintended consequences, we need to amend it."

Last Wednesday, the board unanimously approved an amendment to the lot fee schedule, stating that the per-lot fee for a minor subdivision requiring planning-board review solely due to the 2004 change shall be charged at the building-department rate. A major subdivision, or, a minor subdivision sent to the planning board for any other reason, is subject to the planning board per-lot fee rate.

What this means for Moreau, is that he will pay the town $400 instead of $3,000.

For Jim Leonard, it means a reimbursement from the town for $2,600.

Leonard, who is the only person who has paid the higher lot fees for a minor subdivision, owns property on School Road, which falls in a commercial zone.

He was billed $3,000 by the town for his subdivision, and he paid it. He will now be reimbursed, as the town board has decided that it was not intended for minor subdivisions to be subject to the higher fees.

"It is clear that the result is not what they intended," Moreau told The Enterprise about the town board members, "They made the right decision to correct that."

Moreau said that he wanted the board to consider how the new lot-fee mechanism resulted in unfair treatment of subdivisions that originated in commercial zones.

Leonard told The Enterprise that the board consulted the town attorney, L. Michael Mackey, and his opinion was that the higher fees were not designed to be for minor subdivisions.

The board agreed with him.

"I guess it was a fluke," Leonard said, referring to the fees he paid.

"I thought I was treated very fairly by the town board," he said.

For six months large-scale development suspended in northeast quadrant

By Rachel Dutil

NEW SCOTLAND – In a split party-line vote, the town board last Wednesday passed a law to suspend large-scale development in the northeast quadrant of town, in the medium-density residential (MDR) and residential conservation (R2) zones.

The law, the seventh one passed by the board this year, was sponsored by board member, Richard Reilly, a Democrat.

Reilly proposed enacting a moratorium for six months, while the board reviews zoning in the area. He was backed by the two other Democratic board members, Peg Neri and Deborah Baron, while Republican members Douglas LaGrange and Supervisor Ed Clark opposed the law.

The northeast quadrant borders the suburban towns of Bethlehem and Guilderland, and is the closest part of New Scotland to the city of Albany; it remains mostly rural.

Reilly told the board that the six-month time period would "put pressure on ourselves to get things done" but explained that the moratorium could be extended if needed.

The town currently has a committee, chaired by LaGrange, that is reviewing its comprehensive land-use plan.

LaGrange and Clark both felt that limiting the moratorium to only the northeast quadrant would not preserve the rural character of the town. LaGrange told the board that the intent of a moratorium should be to suspend all development, saying, "I am not particularly in favor."

"I don’t see any reason to limit it to the northeast quadrant," Clark announced just before the vote.

Reilly said that the board needs to focus on zones under the greatest development pressure. "A moratorium should always be as limited in scope as possible," he said, stating the power should not be overused.

Neri chimed in with her agreement, saying, "I think we should go ahead."

"I just think it’s not enough," Clark told The Enterprise.

He said he is concerned that the moratorium deals only with a small section of town, and the whole town is under development pressure. "I’m not confident that this will satisfy the concerns of the residents in the northeast quadrant," he said.

Last October, the board was presented a petition, sponsored by the Northeast Neighborhood Association, requesting that the area be re-zoned to an R2 district, which would require residential lots be a minimum of two acres. Some residents said this would preserve the character of the area. Some other large property owners from the MDR zone submitted a petition opposing a re-zone to R2. Other concerns were expressed to the board about availability of water and sewer resources for development, and what kinds of future developments could be facilitated by current developments.

Reilly said that the board was in agreement that rezoning the MDR zone to an R2 zone would not appropriately handle the problem.

The new law states that, for six months from the effective date of the law, "No applications for subdivision approval, site-plan approval, special-use permits, or for planned unit developments shall be accepted or considered by officials or boards of the town of New Scotland."

L. Michael Mackey, the town’s attorney, told The Enterprise that the law "becomes effective immediately upon filing with the Secretary of State." He said that his office has mailed out the appropriate paperwork, and the law should become effective by the end of the week.

Exceptions to the law include the "maintenance, repair, replacement, modification or alteration" of structures that do not increase the size of the original structure by more than 50 percent; applications that are pending before the planning board or town board for review; applications that have been approved by either board; and applications for residential subdivisions that create 10 lots or fewer.

Two substantial planned unit developments would be exempt from the moratorium. The Maldel development on Krumkill Road and the Kensington Woods development both have applications that are currently pending, and would therefore not be restricted by the law.

The board also heard a short presentation from Theresa Bakner of Vista Development Group, LLC during the public hearing portion of the meeting on plans for the Vista tech park, also in the northeast quadrant. The project has been in the works since March of 2003, when Albany County’s executive office dedicated $1 million to the development of the park.

The property is owned by William Jones. About 20 percent of the property is within the town of New Scotland, with the remainder in Bethlehem.

The project would require a re-zone for the portion of the property to be used for the tech park, Paul Cantlin, the zoning administrator and chief building inspector, told The Enterprise.

The moratorium won’t affect the project as it has been pending for so long, Cantlin said.

The board expressed no concerns with the tech park.

Other business

In other business, the town board:

– Heard from Keith Menia of Vollmer Associates, LLP on a request to extend the firm’s budget $12,000 until March, 2008. The town signed a contract in 2003 with Vollmer to assist in the implementation of storm-water management initiatives over a five-year period;

– Scheduled a public hearing for Wednesday, Oct. 11, at 6:30 p.m. regarding the Swift Road Water District Extension #5;

– Adopted a resolution designating Maldel, LLC as the lead agency for the planned unit development on Krumkill Road. Maldel requested that the application be put on hold, while an alternate water source is sought;

– Accepted the dedication of a deed from Neelam Narang for his property on Grayceland Avenue. The board also approved that all escrow account balances minus any applicable fees be returned to Narang;

– Heard from Charles Carrow Sr., of Carrow Real Estate Services, LLC on his application for Phase II of the development of senior housing units on New Scotland Road. The board elected Peter Barber and Vollmer Associates to assist in the review of the project. The application was referred to the planning board;

– Approved a clarification to the lot fee schedule (see related story);

– Announced that Computer/Electronic Recycling Day will be held on Friday, Sept. 29, from 8 a.m to 3 p.m. and Saturday, Sept. 30, from 8 a.m. to noon in the town of Bethlehem, and New Scotland will join in;

– Adopted a resolution making Echo Lane, Tractor Path, and Celtic Court private roads;

– Granted permission for the town to sell two trucks;

– Amended the town’s emergency management and business continuity plan for records management, and the town’s emergency-response plan;

– Approved the membership of Alex A. Cheban to the Onesquethaw Volunteer Fire Company;

– Hired Joanne Soules as a data-collection consultant for a maximum of three days during the first week of October for a total budget adjustment of $750;

– Granted permission for town employees to donate blood during working hours at the Plum Fest Blood Drive to be held Friday, Sept. 29, from 1 to 7 p.m. at the New Scotland Town Hall;

– Announced that there will be an American Association of Retired Persons driver review class held on Nov. 2 and 3 from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Wyman Osterhout Community Center;

– Announced that flu shots will be given on Tuesday, Oct. 31, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Wyman Osterhout Community Center;

– Announced that the town will change the locks on the community center and begin issuing permits for access to keys; and

– Re-appointed Andrew Barothy-Langer as a member of the assessment board of review for a term ending Sept. 30, 2011, and re-appointed Paul Nichols as chairperson for the term beginning Oct.1, 2006 and ending Sept. 30, 2007.

School updates, library land V’ville voters say yes

By Rachel Dutil

VOORHEESVILLE – Bright smiles adorned the faces of all those in the foyer of the Voorheesville Middle School as the announcement came at 9:50 p.m. that both projects on Tuesday’s ballot passed easily.

The school district’s $5.8 million bond issue passed, 431 to 243, based on unofficial results from Tuesday night’s tallies. The library’s land acquisition proposal, for $150,000 passed 407 to 266.

"I’m glad we won," Dick Ramsey, the president of the Voorheesville Public Library’s board of trustees, told The Enterprise. He was surprised by the low number of voters, he said.

The over-crowded library will buy 5.6 acres of adjacent land for $100,000, and will spend $50,000 on planning how to use it.

Taxpayers will see an increase of two cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, the library estimates.

Ramsey said that the win gives the library opportunities without the added burden of worries about the future.

"I’m glad the school passed, too. The elementary school needed to be fixed," he said.

The school district will spend 89 percent of the bond issue to renovate and repair the elementary school; nearly $3 million will be used to upgrade the 45-year-old heating and ventilation systems at the school. Other repairs will be made at the high school and bus garage.

New Scotland residents will pay 28 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation over 15 years, the district estimates.

A handful of voters rushed in just before the close of the polls at 9:30 p.m., including a few school board members, hoping to be among the last voters.

Everyone chatted amicably – and enjoyed freshly-baked cookies that school board President David Gibson passed around – as they awaited the verdict. When the word came, there were sighs of relief and jovial conversation.

Though the projects being voted on were unrelated, Dick Ramsey and Superintendent of Schools Linda Langevin seemed genuinely happy for one another.

David Gibson told The Enterprise, "For a bond vote for which there is no one running, it was a pretty good turnout."

Langevin told The Enterprise that she, along with the rest of the board, are grateful for all those who came out and voted.

"It was a 64-percent positive vote and that’s marvelous," she said. It shows that voters trust the decisions the board is making, she said.

Gibson said that the information the district mailed out made it clear to people in the community what the district hoped to accomplish, and allowed them to make a decision to go out and confidently vote yes or no.

"I’m glad for the library’s sake that it went through," Gibson added.

"I’m gratified," said Gail Sacco, director of the Voorheesville Public Library, "I appreciate the community trust in the board and their support," she said.

Plum out of luck

By Rachel Dutil

NEW SCOTLAND – The annual Plum Fest celebration will no longer be sponsored by the New Scotland Historical Association.

The event was conceived as a way to celebrate each of the hamlets within New Scotland, and the village of Voorheesville.
This year’s Plum Fest was held Saturday, Sept. 16, in Feura Bush. It marked the second year in a row that the celebration was held in a hamlet that had already been featured.

Willard Osterhout, the president of the New Scotland Historical Association, said that the project was set up with the idea that, once all the hamlets had their Plum Fest celebration, that was it. The festival was named not for fruit, but for the town’s location – plum in the center of Albany County.

The hamlets of Clarksville and Feura Bush displayed interest in Plum Fest, and that is why the celebration continued the past two years, Osterhout told The Enterprise.

Had the second rotation gone in the same order as the first, then this year’s Plum Fest would have been held in New Salem, Osterhout said. New Salem did not want to do it, he said.

"For hamlets that do it, it’s a lot of work," he said. "Sooner or later, there’s not going to be people who want to do this."

Clarksville residents enjoyed the celebration so much that they have started an annual Clarksville Heritage Day, which began with festivities in August, and will continue again next year.

Robert Parmenter, the town of New Scotland historian and a member of the historical association, said that this decision is not meant to discourage hamlets from having their own celebrations.

"I hope they do," he said.

Osterhout said that the historical association is "not abandoning history."

For now, he said, the group is concentrating on its museum, located within the Wyman Osterhout Community Center in New Salem. Specifically, it is planning next year’s museum exhibit, he said. This year, the exhibit focuses on old-time toys, and it will be on display until April.

Love of history and fun just ducky for Van Wormer

By Jo E. Prout

ALBANY — Voorheesville resident Harry Van Wormer recently made his love for history and fun in the Capital Region official: He became the third partner and co-owner of the Albany Aqua Ducks.

"We sell fun. We’re very proud of the business, itself," Van Wormer told The Enterprise. "We’re passionate about it, and Albany tourism."

Van Wormer’s partners are Bob Wolfgang, a retired police chief, and John Giaordiano, who also owns Plaza Travel in Latham. Wolfgang and Van Wormer drive the Albany Aqua-ducks buses, called hydra-terra vehicles because they travel in the water and on land.

"I was a member of the team for putting the Aqua Ducks to-gether," Van Wormer said.

He saw them in Gloucester, Mass. The vehicles Van Wormer saw then were old Army trucks that could traverse land and sea. The buses used for the Albany Aqua Ducks are modern 300-horsepower Caterpillar diesels, Van Wormer said.

"These are brand new. These are custom-made for the Hud-son River," Van Wormer said. The buses were created to with-stand high currents, which the Hudson River has because of its tidal cycles, he said. The vehicles cruise at six knots, but can travel at nine knots. (Knots are fairly equivalent to miles per hour, with nautical miles equal to 6,076.12 feet, and miles equal to 5,280 feet.)

Each Aqua Ducks vehicle can seat 44 passengers and two crewmembers.

"I drive it. I’m a certified Coast Guard Master Captain," Van Wormer said. He also needs a commercial driving license to operate the bus. His first mates are really tour guides. They must have Red Cross training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, Van Wormer said, but they must also be able to recite a detailed description of the city of Albany. He called the job "pretty labor intensive." Teachers, he said, often work as first mates during the summers.

Tours on the Aqua Ducks last about 75 minutes. The first 45 minutes are spent touring Al-bany and hearing the history of the region. The next 30 minutes are spent on the river, where the tour guides describe river eco-logy, explain the histories of nearby buildings, point out nest-ing peregrine falcons, and pass the moored U.S.S. Slater. Tours will continue through the end of October.

"We do corporate pick-up. We pick up groups. I’ve done two proms on there. We go right to your work site and pick you up," Van Wormer said. Wedding parties have also used the Aqua-ducks as an activity, he said.

Van Wormer, an Albany native, said that the business is expanding to trolley tours. The company recently bought two trolleys from the Capital District Transportation Authority.

Van Wormer and Wolfgang fill in as drivers when needed to offer tours of the city. Each trol-ley has a conductor, and a route with 18 stops around town. Passengers pay one fare and then "duck on and duck off" at their leisure, Van Wormer said. The trolley option is doing well in its third week, he said.

Albany Aqua Ducks has also extended to Troy to offer histori-cal charters, but the vehicles are unable to enter the river there, he said.

The business offers customer surveys, and Van Wormer said that they have a 98 percent customer satisfaction rate.

"The best customers are Albany people," Van Wormer said. "Most people write notes. They never realize Albany has so much history.

"Half of the tourists on the buses are from the Capital Region," he said. Last week, he had a large group from Israel that had booked on-line for their visit here, he said.

"We’ve been selling out so many times, you must make reservations," he said.

In the three years Albany Aqua Ducks has been operating, the business has hosted 50,000 tourists, Van Wormer said.

"Where were those 50,000 people before" What were they doing"" he asked. "You have to experience it, the fun and excite-ment. We just love what we’re doing."

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