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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 4, 2007

Nichols sold to Hannaford

By Saranac Hale Spencer

VOORHEESVILLE — After less than a year at the helm, Kevin Smith is selling Nichols’ Shop ’N Save to Hannaford Supermarkets.

"Kevin is an independent store owner, as I am, but he also has the strength of the chain," Elaine Nichols said when she announced the sale of her family’s grocery store last year. She added, "I believe I am giving the store longevity."

Nichols’ was the latest acquisition in the four-store chain that Smith kept stocked with Hannaford goods. Last week, he announced the sale of two of those stores to the Hannaford company, which is based in Maine and owned by the Belgian company, Delhaize Group.

Smith chose to sell the Voorheesville and West Sand Lake stores because they each required a pharmacy, which was hard for a small businessman to run, he said. "Larger companies can deal with the insurance companies," he explained. He is keeping the stores in Ravena and Hoosic Valley.

When the store changes hands, which will happen by the end of the year, Hannaford will maintain the pharmacy in Voorheesville, said Ben Arato, a spokesman for the company. He said that there would be changes at the store, but said that it’s too soon to know what they might be.

The name will change to Hannaford, he said, and the company plans to keep it open as a grocery store. It is only one in the village, located in the shopping plaza on Route 85A.

Neither Smith nor Arato would give the selling price.

Getting their fill
Picard Rd. residents miffed about mining

By Rachel Dutil

NEW SCOTLAND – Located at the base of the Helderbergs, Picard Road generally exemplifies the quiet, rural character of the town. For the past five weeks, however, residents there have put up with loud noise produced from a screening machine used to separate rocks from excavated dirt.

The property, in a residential-agriculture district, is owned by Robert Bruno. He obtained a special-use permit from the town’s planning board in December of 2005. The permit allows Bruno to deposit more than 100 yards of fill on the site. "The fill will be obtained on site and consists of clean gravel and loam. The purpose for the earth moving is to grade a mounded area thereby creating a level area large enough to allow for the construction of a new dwelling," the permit says.

Early this summer, Bruno had the top of the hill graded, said Jean Gehring, who has lived on Picard Road for 30 years. In July, he began drilling a well, she said. In the middle of August, machinery and trucks arrived, said Gehring. "Everything seemed to have changed for some reason," she added.

Bruno could not be reached for comment.

Excavators have been working at the site for weeks, digging, screening, and hauling loads of dirt off site, said Gehring, who, along with her neighbor, Alex Orens, contacted The Enterprise to express their concerns about the site and their frustrations with the town.

On two separate occasions, Gehring followed trucks leaving the site — the first week fill was transported to a site on Brandle Road, and the following week to a site on Meadowdale Lane, she said.

Although the permit identified only one property where fill could be dumped off site — an adjoining parcel located at 486 Picard Rd., owned by Jeffrey and Donna McGinnis — fill was dumped at a site behind Orens’s house where a new home is being constructed, he said.

Donna McGinnis is the assessment clerk for the town of New Scotland; no fill was dumped on her property, Orens said.

According to town law, if Bruno were to haul fill off his property, to a site other than that of the McGinnises, he would have to identify the parcel or get a special-use permit, said Paul Cantlin, the town’s building inspector.

Because the fill dumped at the site behind Orens’s property was used for storm-water management, "it was a legal use of fill," said Cantlin. The rule governing hauling fill says that storm-water management and septic system uses are exempt, Cantlin explained.

"Nothing warranted us to say he couldn’t do it, because it is allowed," he said.

The sites on Brandle Road and Meadowdale Road where the fill was taken are located in the town of Guilderland, and therefore not in the jurisdiction of the New Scotland building department, said Cantlin.

"I can only enforce as far as my law allows," Cantlin told The Enterprise when asked about the stipulation of the permit that says, "The material moved is conceived to remain primarily on site."

Noise nuissance

Orens works in Guilderland as a regional operator for National Grid. He works the night shift and his job requires that he be alert and focused, he said.

The noise created from the excavation and screening on Bruno’s property makes it extremely difficult for Orens to sleep, he said.

Last August, the town adopted a noise control law. It works "to prevent unreasonably loud, disturbing and unnecessary noise and to reduce the noise level within the Town so as to preserve, protect and promote the public health, safety and welfare and to foster convenience, peace and quiet within the Town for the inhabitants thereof," the noise control law states.

Noise resulting from construction, defined in the law as, "the erection, including excavation, demolition, alteration or repair of any building," is prohibited between the hours of 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.

The ordinance is enforced through the town’s code enforcement officer, the county sheriff’s department, or the State Police. Those found guilty of violating the law can be fined up to $250 for each offense.

Last Saturday, the noise was so bad, Orens said, he contacted the Albany County Sheriff’s Department. The officer who responded told Orens that the sheriff’s department is not in charge of enforcing the noise ordinance; it is the responsibility of the town, he said.

"You can basically do what you want in the town of New Scotland on a Saturday or a Sunday," Orens said, referring to the fact that Town Hall is closed on the weekends.

The sound of the machines running coupled with the tumbling of stones is "very noisy," Gehring said.

"You’d think you’d get a break on the weekend," she said.

"It’s a construction project" You have a certain amount of noise with construction," said Frank Peduto, an engineer with Spectra Engineering. Peduto has been working with Bruno on the project since he applied for the special-use permit.

Spectra Engineering has worked on the grading plan, storm-water control plan, and a topographic survey of the property, Peduto told The Enterprise.

"It’s just one residence. Mr. Bruno just wants to live comfortably. It’s a temporary interruption in their normal Helderberg lifestyle," said Peduto, responding to the neighbors’ complaints.

Mining operation"

In addition to their complaints about the noise, Orens and Gehring were also concerned that Bruno, instead of simply grading the property to build a house, is mining the site.

"I don’t know what to think about what’s going on," Gehring told The Enterprise. "There is a huge pile of dirt and another huge pile of rocks," she said.

"Mr. Bruno wants to grade it down to the level he wants to live at" He doesn’t want to come back in two years," Peduto said. "Mr. Bruno wanted to do this project once, and once only," he said.

"We wanted to cut away the hillside there" We probably took about 10 feet off the hill," said Peduto, adding that it is down to a "reasonable grade" now, and the builder will be applying for a building permit with the town within a few days.

"For the purposes of drainage, it made sense to take down that hill and grade it properly," said Peduto, adding that Bruno wanted the parcel to be graded well to avoid rushing water.

The construction portion of the project is temporary, said Peduto. "We understand their complaints," he said of the neighbors. Peduto added that the neighbors had never approached Bruno with their complaints. "If he had known who these people were, he would have knocked on their door and told them what was going on," Peduto said.

Orens and Gehring have filed several complaints with the town, Orens said.

Every complaint made to the town goes through the building department, which is staffed by Cantlin and Jeff Pine.

"I feel he’s been extremely unresponsive to my concerns," Orens said of Cantlin.

The only violation thus far at the site, said Cantlin, was with the entrance. Mud was being tracked from the site onto Picard Road, he said. He went over to the site early last week and spoke to the excavating crew about it, and the problem was addressed within two or three days, Cantlin said.

"He applied as he should; he went through the process as he should; and he was approved as he should," Cantlin said of Bruno. "He hasn’t violated anything."

Because the excavation is for the purpose of constructing a house, the removal of fill cannot be considered mining, explained Allan Hewitt, the regional mining manager for the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

The town is claiming a construction exemption on the project, said Hewitt.

The law allows for the excavation of an area large enough for a home and 100 feet in all directions around the "footprint" of the house, Hewitt said.

"If it’s truly legitimate construction" we don’t want to stand in the way," he said.

When a DEC representative went out to the site last Friday, he located a screening operation on the site, Hewitt said. The screening machine is "indicative of mining," he said.

"The excavator agreed to take it off site," Hewitt said, adding, "We’re going to keep our eye on it."

On Tuesday, The Enterprise visited the site, where two workers from Jake Burnett Excavating, Inc. of Albany were filling two dump trucks, using two front-end loaders. The rocky soil made a loud clattering sound as it landed in the truck beds.

The two trucks and two loaders were the only equipment on site.

"We can’t have the screening machine," said Steve Onate, one of the truck operators, adding that the DEC had been by on Friday and said that it needed to be removed from the property. "Yesterday we took it out," Onate said.

Onate showed where the house will be situated on the leveled plateau, and where the septic system will go. Behind that area is a newly created cliff, which, Onate said, will be leveled to a slope for the backyard.

"We’re going to go out again at the end of the week" to be sure he hasn’t extended the excavation beyond the 100 feet radius around the area designated for the house, said Hewitt.

If he has, Hewitt said, "We’ll make him get a permit." Bruno would then have to supply the DEC with a plan indicating how the site will be mined, and how it will be reclaimed, Hewitt explained. He would also need to set up a reclamation bond for $5,500 per acre, Hewitt said.

"We have a lot of these construction things that turn into mines," Hewitt said. "It’s kind of a backdoor way of getting in" If it is the case, we will call him on it," he said.

Country-club development granted longer cul-de-sac

By Rachel Dutil

NEW SCOTLAND – Over the objections of several residents, Amedore Homes was granted a variance for a longer cul-de-sac for a cluster development at the Colonie Country Club.

The town’s zoning board of appeals granted an area variance for 545 feet of relief — more than half-again as much as the law allows — last Tuesday after a public hearing where numerous residents, who had waited patiently through a nearly two-hour public hearing on a proposed cell tower, voiced their concerns about the roadway.

Issues of privacy, property value, and access for emergency vehicles were raised.

The hearing was only concerning the length of the road — all other aspects of the application for the 35-lot subdivision will be considered by the planning board.

Daniel Hershberg, of Hershberg and Hershberg, represents Amedore Homes, the developer planning the project. Hershberg explained to the board that, if the cul-de-sac were to be scaled back to 1,000 feet — the length permitted by the zoning law — the roadway would be constructed over an area that was formerly a mine, and it would require a significant amount of fill.

The intent of the 1,000-foot cul-de-sac length, said Keith Menia, an engineer with Stantec, the town’s engineering firm, is to have multiple ways into and out of a subdivision for fire protection and ambulance service purposes. "I would consider this a very minimal variance request," said Menia.

The homes will be "individually designed," Hershberg told the board earlier. Some will be one-story, and some will be two-story homes, he said. "These will be on the expensive side," he said, giving a ballpark starting price of around $500,000.

David Moreau, who owns 65 acres on Youmans Road, adjacent to the Colonie Country Club property, said, at last weeks meeting, that he would be interested in donating land for further development. "I don’t see any possibility for future development," said Moreau, adding that his property is available.

Michael Canfora lives on Locust Drive. He told the board he is opposed to the extension; he moved into his house because there were few homes in the area, he said. If the road is constructed at 1,545 feet, homes would be constructed behind his property, but, if the road were kept at 1,000 feet, they would not be behind his yard, he said.

Candice Raderman, a member of the Voorheesville ambulance committee, is concerned that the longer road will create safety issues. "I see a danger to the longer roadway," said Raderman.

"From a practical standpoint," said Menia, a fire truck is going to go around a vehicle parked on the street, or through it, or, it will be driven on a lawn. "It’s going to get back there," he said.

Raderman explained that the trucks are difficult to drive and driving on someone’s lawn is not always viable.

Kerry Hatch questioned why, if the zoning law allows for cul-de-sac streets to be 1,000 feet, the town can skirt around the law for a developer.

The attorney for the zoning board, Louis Neri, said that having variances is part of the law.

Paul Golden, a residenr of Maple Lane, said that he thinks it is inappropriate to grant a variance to "an application that is ill-conceived."

The applicant is proposing to build 31 single-family homes, and two duplexes. Herschberg told the board at an earlier meeting that plans for a development on the property have been ongoing for many years, but until a recent agreement with the village of Voorheesville for municipal water to the site, the project was at a standstill.

Matthew Hotopp spoke on behalf of a neighbor who lives in Florida but may return to the area. His neighbor’s property abuts the lot where a duplex is proposed, and, said Hotopp, the presence of a duplex on the back property line directly impacts his property value.

On Tuesday, the planning board agreed that it would be a good idea if Hershberg considered including an easement or dedicated right-of-way to provide access to the end of the cul-de-sac for fire service purposes, or to extend the roadway in the event of future development.

Several Forest Drive residents expressed concerns to the planning board about the buffer zone between their properties and the proposed development. Chairman Robert Stapf answered their comments by saying that the board does not yet know how it will address that issue. Stapf said he is hesitant to put a name such as "no-cut zone" on it at this point, because it is unclear what course the board will take.

Other business

In other business at recent zoning- and planning-board meetings:

– The planning board issued a one-year extension for a special-use permit for Matt Fiske to erect a single-family dwelling on his property off of Youmans Road;

– The planning board issued a one-year extension for a special-use permit for Ron Shelmerdine for the movement, disturbance, and placement of more than 100 yards of earth on his property on New Salem South Road;

– The planning board approved a sketch-plat submitted by Ray Gemme of Trinity Properties for a 14-lot subdivision on a 28-acre parcel adjacent to Claremont Subdivision, which lies entirely in the village of Voorheesville. The parcel is located in a residential-agriculture district. The applicant proposes to connect the existing roadway with a 900-foot loop, off of which would be a 1,000-foot cul-de-sac. The lots will all be approximately 44,000 square feet, each with its own individual septic systems, Gemme said. He will negotiate with the village for municipal water;

– The zoning and planning boards heard an application for an area variance submitted by Sydney Dunston to be allowed to replace an existing 480-square-foot mobile home with a larger 980-square-foot mobile home on his Orchard Hill Road property. The parcel is located in a residential-agriculture district, and zoning requires that any increase of more that 25 percent to an existing mobile home on a lot outside of a mobile-home park, get an area variance.

The current home was purchased new in 1958, and, said Dunston, "I think it has outlived its usefulness." The planning board passed along a favorable recommendation to the zoning board. "What the applicant is proposing will improve the neighborhood," said Stapf;

– The zoning and planning boards heard an application for an area variance submitted by Darrell Duncan, the town’s highway superintendent, on behalf of Edward Mead to be allowed to construct an addition to the side of an existing dwelling that will be within the required front-yard setback. The parcel is located in the residential-agriculture district on New Salem Road.

The applicant is requesting 16-feet, 9-inches of relief from the 70-foot front-yard setback requirement, to allow the addition to come within 53 feet, 3 inches of the front property line. The planning board passed a favorable recommendation on the zoning board; and

– Both the zoning and planning boards heard an application for an area variance and a special-use permit from Michael Cusack, on behalf of Cellco Partnership, doing business as Verizon Wireless, to extend an existing 95-foot tower, owned by the village of Voorheesville and located on Woods Hill Road, to a height of 110 feet, with a four-foot lightening rod. Zoning requires setbacks of 110 percent of a tower’s height from all property lines. The tower was originally approved in 1996 at a height of 100 feet, but for some reason it was only built to 95 feet, Cusack said.

The purpose of the project, said Cusack, is to "clean up service" in New Scotland, specifically, the New Scotland hamlet, the village, and New Salem.

The planning board announced it has issues with the lay-down area, and diesel fuel being stored on site for a backup diesel generator. Stapf asked that Cusack provide information about the generator and the potential noise levels and pollution associated with it.

The board was also concerned with the strength of the footing with the added weight, and the need for additional visual simulations.

The applicant will need to do a balloon test, and engineer Keith Menia suggested that the planning and zoning boards give input on sites where photo simulations should be taken.

Stapf also asked that Cusack re-investigate additional sites that might be feasible to meet his needs. "Personally, I’m not really enthused about this application," Stapf said.

The advantage of this site is that it will extend and cover New Salem, where other sites won’t, Cusack said.

Stapf asked that the applicant also provide data regarding wind, icefall, and snowfall.

The planning board will be the lead agency on the State Environmental Quality Review Act portion of the application.

Use variance requested
Some favor cell tower for safety, others oppose it for ugliness

By Rachel Dutil

NEW SCOTLAND – Residents are divided over having a new cell tower built on property owned by the New Scotland Cemetery Association on Route 85 behind the oldest church in town.

They filled the public hearing room last Tuesday at Town Hall, spilling out into the hallway.

Some supported the application, referencing personal reliance on cell phones for the safety of their families, and citing the financial needs of the cemetery association. Others were opposed, primarily due to visual and historic impacts. The hearing, nearly two hours long, will be continued at the Oct. 23 meeting.

The applicants — Enterprise Consulting Services, a company that develops wireless telecommunications structures; T-Mobile; and the New Scotland Cemetery Association — are requesting a use variance to allow for a tower in a commercial district, and two area variances, one for the height, and one to allow a reduced lay-down area.

The proposal is for a 150-foot monopole structure which, if approved, would be constructed in a vacant field to the east of the cemetery itself.

The area is not currently used by the cemetery and, the amount of fill needed to transform the area into usable cemetery space would take years to haul in, said Arlene Herzog, a member of the cemetery association.

The cemetery association works on a budget that is "rapidly declining," said member Martha Oden at last month’s planning board meeting. "It’s very difficult to make money," she said.

"If we could receive funds from leasing a tower," Herzog told the planning board, "we can get liability insurance and do some repairs every year." She added that the association would be willing to put extra money into community projects.

The cemetery’s only source of income is from money it receives for burials. The cemetery, on average, has between two and five burials a year, The Enterprise reported earlier. [For background stories on the cemetery and the cell-tower proposal, go on-line to altamontenterprise.com, under archives for Oct. 5, 2006, and Sept. 6, 2007.] The cost for a lot in the cemetery is $400. The burial cost is $690; the gravedigger is paid $550.

With the money currently in the association’s budget, Herzog said the cemetery could sustain itself for two years, at which point, state law mandates that the cemetery be turned over to the town.

At last week’s meeting, resident Edie Abrams provided Murray and the board with a copy of a letter she wrote. In her letter, Abrams suggests the town postpone making a decision on the application "in order to give the community a chance to solve this problem." Abrams also includes information regarding several grant programs for which the cemetery association might be eligible.

Abrams also suggested that the board consider camouflage techniques, if the proposal is passed.

Chuck Voss, a member of the planning board and a Republican candidate for town board, was out of town for the Sept. 4 planning board meeting, in which the board passed along a favorable recommendation to the zoning board on the application.
Prior to the meeting, Voss sent e-mail correspondence to all members of the planning board and the chair of the zoning board, William Hennessey, expressing his concerns, and requesting that his comments be read into the public record at the meeting. They were not.

In the e-mail, dated Aug. 31, Voss says that the applicant has not sufficiently proved undue hardship, other than those self-created, and cites "severe visual impacts."

Voss later told The Enterprise that he has reached out to the cemetery association "and offered to voluntarily seek potential grant funding sources for them to help alleviate their financial plight."

Historical site

The New Scotland Presbyterian Church is the oldest church in town — it was organized in 1787, and the first church building was constructed in 1791. The church that stands today was built in 1849.

The church cemetery, adjacent to the New Scotland Cemetery, holds the bodies of 14 Revolutionary War soldiers. Jacob Moak was in the Albany County Militia; his is the oldest known grave in the cemetery. He died in 1795.

In accordance with the Federal Communications Commission, the applicant is required to file a form with the State Historical Preservation Office.

The office must respond to the applicant within 30 days. Jacqueline Phillips-Murray, who represents Enterprise Consulting Solutions, filed the form on Aug. 1, and had not received a response from SHPO when she came before the planning board.

On Tuesday, she announced that SHPO had issued a letter indicating there would be "no effect" to historic or cultural resources.

Daniel Mackay is a resident of New Scotland South Road who works as the director of public policy with the Preservation League of New York State; last week, he expressed some "significant concerns" with the proposal.

"The applicant has not adequately documented historic resources within a half-mile radius," Mackay said. The applicant showed a "stunning lack of diligence," he said.

"These sites have been determined to be historic by you" but not through the state preservation office," said Louis Neri, the attorney for the zoning and planning boards.

"The FCC programmatic agreement does not require that applicants determine if property is eligible," Murray said. "We’ve confirmed with SHPO that we have met all of our obligations," she said.

"I’m concerned that all parties here don’t understand the process," said Mackay. "We’d like you to re-open this process."

"One of the reasons we drafted the telecommunications law is to expedite the process and not prolong the agony," Neri said of the town’s law that regulates the placement of cell towers. He pressed Mackay to speak of specific concerns on how the proposed tower would impact the historic character of the area.

"I think there is an adverse visual impact," Mackay concluded. "I’m not opposed to the project; I’m opposed to the visual impact," he said. "I think we need to see photo simulations of other tower heights."

A balloon test — where a balloon is floated at the height of the proposed tower to determine visual impacts — was held last weekend, on Saturday, from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m., and on Sunday, from 8 a.m. until noon.

Photo simulations provided as part of the application show no full view from any location in the viewshed, said Murray. "Visibility is very limited," she told The Enterprise.

Christine Cameron lives in Albany and is a member of the New Scotland Presbyterian Church. She attends the church, she said, because she enjoys the drive to the "country church." Members of the church do not want the tower, she said.

Margaret Ewart is also a member of the church. She drew a sketch of the tower in relation to the church, which she said was drawn to scale, and presented it at the meeting.

"There is a visual impact," she said. "I think it’s disrespectful to the memory of those buried there."

Public response

Murray informed the board that she had received letters of interest from the New Salem Fire Department and the Onesquethaw Volunteer Fire Company. The letters indicated that, by co-locating on the tower, "their ability to serve the community would be enhanced," Murray told The Enterprise.

The board, in addition to continuing the public hearing, requested that the applicant provide a more detailed radio-frequency analysis that illustrates the need for the height.

Crosby told the board that, ideally, to provide optimal connectivity for T-Mobile customers, the tower would need to be 180 to 195 feet high.

"We just barely have enough of the area covered" At 150 feet, we’re compromising to make the project feasible," Crosby said.

"The signal is degraded by air," he said, adding that, generally, there is a 1.5-mile coverage radius from tower sites.

Board member Adam Greenberg asked Murray to also provide any documented complaints from customers that address the need for service in this area.

Currently, T-Mobile is co-located on a tower on the escarpment, at the State Troopers’ barracks and on a rooftop on Krumkill Road, Murray told The Enterprise.

The town is required to investigate sites within a five-mile radius, said Keith Menia, an engineer with the town’s engineering firm, Stantec. "Some sites were not investigated," said Menia, adding that the applicant needs to provide a report indicating why all of the sites within that radius would not be appropriate or feasible.

Coverage in New Scotland is "spotty to very poor," said resident William Kerr at last week’s public hearing. "I’m in support of the proposal," he said.

"The proposal to build the tower appears to be a win-win for the cemetery association" EMS [Emergency Medical Services] have been offered free space — that’s vital to us all," Kerr said.

"It’s preposterous," said New Scotland South Road resident Kenneth Carlson. "We’re talking about a cell tower in a residential neighborhood" The zoning may be commercial, but it’s a residential hamlet," he said.

"I don’t want to live in a world with a cell tower every 1.5 miles," Carlson added.

Nancy Burke is a wife and mother, she said. Her husband is disabled, and, if the power goes out, he relies on his cell phone to be able to call for help if he needs it, she said.

"I can appreciate the aesthetic part of this and the historic part," she said, reiterating that good cell-phone service is critical to the safety of her family.

Martha Oden agreed. "A lot of times we need to improve our coverage because it’s a health necessity," she said. "All the towers look ugly, but we’ve gotten used to it," Oden added.

Some residents asked if it was possible that the town consider several shorter towers.

The proposed tower, said resident Patrick Ravida, "adversely affects not only the quality of life, but the property value of the property I own adjacent."

He asked that the board "understand" the concerns of residents. "We haven’t been given enough time to comment on this," he added.

"This zoning board of appeals has its full power to fully analyze everything said at this meeting to make a reasoned decision," said Sal Abrams, a resident of Route 85A.

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