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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, February 28, 2008

In New Scotland
Senior overlay bill to be adopted"

By Saranac Hale Spencer

NEW SCOTLAND — A senior overlay district will likely become part of the town’s landscape.

The once-contentious bill would allow for development anywhere in town, including the commercial district along Route 85, where developer Charles Carrow has proposed 15 duplexes behind a medical facility he built.

At a public hearing for the law on Feb. 13, Carrow pitched his senior housing plans.

"This isn’t a low-income area," he told the board. "And I’m not ashamed to say that."

"I’m afraid I have to agree with Mr. Carrow," said resident Liz Kormos, who chairs the senior advisory board. She had also done research on the demographics of the area and came to, essentially, the same conclusion, but added that there would be a need for moderate-income senior housing.

Drafted largely by Democratic Councilman Richard Reilly over the last year-and-a-half, the bill was criticized in August by some residents and Republican Councilman Doug LaGrange and then-Supervisor Ed Clark, who had run on the Republican ticket.

"There seems to be a great rush to get this done," Clark said in August. "I feel it’s being done primarily to accommodate Mr. Carrow’s development."

Some residents objected that the bill had few criteria geared for seniors and they pointed out that the property Carrow planned to build on was zoned commercial.

Democratic Councilwoman Deborah Baron’s husband, Robert Baron, is a business associate of Carrow and would act as the project contractor for the development, he said last summer. Although Baron told fellow board members of "a possible conflict of interest" earlier, at the public hearing on Aug. 8 for the law, she said, as the town’s senior liaison, that area seniors are interested in the senior-housing district "because they’re interested in the community." She added, "I really don’t see them selling their homes for this sort of real estate."

One resident at that meeting had offered an answer to the town’s assertion that senior housing was good for the tax base since people over 55 will be paying school taxes but won’t have children attending school. "It’s like taking the people out of their house" and replacing them with families with children," said Irving Mosher, implying the town will still have children to educate.

LaGrange, the only Republican left on the board since Clark retired and Supervisor Thomas Dolin, a Democrat, took office in January, asked at the Feb. 13 hearing what percent of the units in Carrow’s project were likely to be inhabited by New Scotland residents. Around 25 percent, answered Kormos, since it’s so close to Bethlehem.

"You think there’s need here — go to Bethlehem," she said of the senior-housing shortage in the area.

The newly-completed senior-housing complex in Voorheesville has four of its nine units full, said Carrow.

Although Dolin expressed some concern over a lack of incentives for low-income senior housing, he concluded, "It’s kind of embarrassing, we’re the only one around here that doesn’t allow senior housing. It’s overdue."

No objections were raised from the few people who attended the hearing, held in the midst of a snow storm, and the board has submitted the bill to Albany County’s planning board and expects to vote on it at its April meeting.

Bender melon farm to be sold"
Big box to open in New Scotland"

By Saranac Hale Spencer

NEW SCOTLAND — After years on the market, the old Bender melon farm might have a buyer.

The 179-acre farm, which is assessed at $734,700, has an asking price of $4 million — it’s listed as an ideal development site by Platform Realty Group.

"There are developers looking at the site and" potentially, it could be a big-box type store," Supervisor Thomas Dolin said yesterday, adding that he has doubts about whether the town’s infrastructure could handle it.

"It’s a good piece of property," said Robert Murphy, vice president of Platform Realty, who is handling the listing. Due to its frontage on routes 85 and 85A and its commercial zoning designation, the land has good prospects for development, he said.

Back in September of 2004, the St. Andrew’s Foundation announced plans to buy the property and build a Scottish cultural center, which was to include a museum, a school of piping and dance, and highland games’ fields. At the time, the foundation’s president, Michael Kelley, called the plan "a win-win for everyone," because the area would maintain its rural character while building economic activity. He pointed out that it’s a commercial site, and said, "So, one day you could see a Target go up."

Although Murphy was representing the owners of the property, a group of doctors who are listed as MLF Enterprises, he couldn’t recall what had disrupted the deal and Kelley didn’t return phone calls this week. One likely hang-up may have been the lack of water and sewer at the site. The town of New Scotland has no available water or sewer in that area, but the neighboring town of Bethlehem may be able to provide it.

"That requires a very delicate negotiation," the former New Scotland supervisor, Ed Clark, said on Tuesday of making a deal for water. Since Bethlehem has a reservoir located in New Scotland it provides water, for a fee, to some New Scotland residents along its pipeline. Use of the sewer system, though, is more difficult, Clark said, because the capacity of the sewer, which is likely low, would have to be studied, an undertaking that is quite expensive.

"Even without water and sewer, it’s still a good development site," Murphy said.

Charles Carrow, who is planning to build 15 duplexes as a senior housing development on the other side of Route 85, hopes to get those services from Bethlehem, said Supervisor Dolin, who took office in January, after Clark retired.

"Thirty living units for seniors is a relatively modest supply question," Dolin said. When "you start getting into the proposed Amadore development," though, it’s a different situation, Dolin said, referring to a failed plan for a large development proposed in the area over a year ago.

The volume of traffic on that rural stretch of Route 85 is 5,000 cars on an average day, said Peter Van Keuren of the state’s Department of Transportation. Along Route 85A, he said, the figure is 8,600. On an average day on Central Avenue in Colonie, near the intersection of Wolf Road, where there is a shopping mall and a Target, there are roughly 44,000 vehicles on an average day, he said.

"There’s really nothing to talk about at this point," said Gregory Widrick, a managing partner of Sphere Development LLC., who has been looking into the property. Before co-founding Sphere, Widrick was in charge of the "big box" division at The Pyramid Companies, where he worked with "any of your typical big box stores — Best Buy, Circuit City, Sports Authority," he said. Pyramid owns Guilderland’s Crossgates Mall.

When asked if there had been any interest from retailers in the New Scotland site, Widrick answered, "That’s what we’re trying to figure out — if we do or if we don’t."

Sphere first met with New Scotland officials about a month ago and have had two meetings so far, said Paul Cantlin, the town’s building inspector and zoning administrator. The development group hasn’t made any formal plans available to the town, he said.

"All I know is that it would be a shopping center of some magnitude," said Cantlin. Although none of the potential stores have been named, he said, one of the anchors approached Sphere about the property. "Evidently, this anchor, who wasn’t identified" had done the homework on the site and made the determination that this particular site would satisfy their needs," he said. "And they went to the Sphere group to act as the agent to get the necessary approvals and finding of facts that it needed to get the project to go."

"I can’t even recognize that this is on the table," said Phil Serghini, a senior manager for Wal-Mart’s public affairs in New York State. The company doesn’t talk about possible locations because it could cause the prices of nearby parcels to go up, he said, which could affect the deal.

"Once we file an application," Serghini said, and the company starts going before the town’s planning board, it will talk about plans. The length of time this takes varies in New York, he said, and depends on the local approval process. Usually, he said, it takes from six to 18 months and then about a year to build the store.

"I would be very surprised," Widrick said of the potential for a Wal-Mart on the Bender melon farm. Right now, he said, it’s "too early for me to figure out who’s interested."

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