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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, November 29, 2007

Residential renewal
McKownville plans for future

By Saranac Hale Spencer

GUILDERLAND - Maintaining residential character in the increasingly commercial hamlet of McKownville is the main thrust of the recommendations put together by the McKownville Zoning Committee.

It took the group of five residents about six months to develop the report, said committee member and 38-year McKownville resident Don Reeb. The committee discussed its findings with the town board last week.

"Generally, I think they accepted the report as being worthwhile," Reeb said of the board's reaction. He'll now wait to hear further from the town, he said.

One of Guilderland's oldest residential neighborhoods, McKownville in recent decades has seen the development of Stuyvesant Plaza, the state university, and the Northway in its midst. Its tree-lined streets with modest houses are feeling the pressure of an ever-busier Route 20, the town's major thoroughfare.

Asked which recommendations he expects to see in action, Reeb said, "I'd be hard-pressed to guess," but added that the section detailing a proposed re-zone of five houses was likely.

The committee suggested changing the zoning designation for 10 properties, half of them are houses that are being used as such, but are zoned for business. The committee's concern is that, if the houses are sold, they could then be used for businesses, which would change the character of some largely residential areas.

Some of the suggestions included with the other five proposed re-zones are less likely.

Supervisor Kenneth Runion said a recommended change at 1450 Western Ave. is "a glaring example."

The office building located at that address is near a traffic light on busy Route 20 and is next to other commercial properties on that road, which do not have traffic lights at the intersections of their entrances. "It is urgently recommended that the Town seek to immediately engage in negotiations with the owners of properties at 1440-1444 Western Avenue and 1450 Western Avenue to remedy a very dangerous ingress/egress traffic problem," the report says.

"The other glaring one is that 105 Arcadia," Runion said. That building looks like a house, the report says, but it is used as a beauty shop. The committee recommends that the zoning designation be changed from its current business category to a residential one.

Another section that the board discussed dealt with notification from the town to residents who live near properties slated to go before the zoning or planning boards. The report says that, often, there isn't enough time between notification and the appearance date for people to collect their thoughts on the issue.

"It's better to err on the side of transparency than not," said Stephen Harausz, who serves on the McKownville committee.

"There is some concern over people paving their front yards for parking," Reeb said at the meeting. This concern isn't directly related to the residential-verses-commercial problem though.

"As residences become occupied by multiple unrelated individuals, the competition for off-street parking space leads to the paving over of front lots, creating a commercial appearance for what is generally single-family housing on residential streets," the report says. It urges the town to amend the zoning laws to encourage green space in yards.

Town board member David Bosworth suggested that some of these driveways are probably encroaching on the town's right-of-way, and controlling the problem by that means rather than changing zoning laws "might be a less toxic" way to curb the problem.

"It's moving along nicely," Reeb said yesterday of the plan's progress, adding, "It'll take some time to get this all done."

Some of the issues raised in the committee's report will also likely be seen again. as McKownville develops its master plan, which is required by the town's comprehensive plan.

"If you have crazy-quilt development in a community" you're just going to add to the overall congestion," said Harausz.

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