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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 20, 2008

Overlay approved
Carrow can develop senior-housing plan

 By Saranac Hale Spencer

NEW SCOTLAND — A year and a half after it was first requested, the senior overlay district is covering the town.

In September of 2006, Charles Carrow came before the town board to request the zoning district, said Democratic Councilman Richard Reilly.  Last Wednesday, Carrow was again at a town board meeting, where he thanked the board for passing the amendment to the town’s zoning law.  It passed 4 to 0, with Democratic Councilwoman Deborah Baron abstaining because her husband has business interests in Carrow’s proposed development.  The other board members — a Republican and three Democrats — voted for it.

The floating zone allows for senior housing to be built on any parcel, regardless of its current zoning designation, providing that it get approval.  It is an effort to streamline the process for developers, said Reilly, which will encourage the growth of senior housing in town — a fast-growing market.

With his initial request, Carrow provided information on senior housing laws in other area municipalities, like Colonie, said Reilly, a chief architect of New Scotland’s law.  He and Robert Stapf, who chairs the planning board, and Paul Cantlin, the town’s building inspector, gathered information from about a dozen other municipalities and borrowed heavily from the town’s own zoning laws to draft the law, Reilly said.  The trio gave their proposal to the town board the following June and received some criticism — that the law wasn’t tailored to seniors’ needs — in the public hearings held in August and September.  Some residents also raised questions about whether the overlay district was primarily a means to let Carrow build residences in a commercial zone.  Councilman Douglas LaGrange, the only Republican on the board, who ran for supervisor, questioned the bill last fall.  The matter was sent to the planning board for review and taken up after the election; last week, LaGrange voted for the law.

Since last year’s public hearings, a sunset provision has been added, which requires that construction for a project begin within two years of its approval or the land will revert to its original zoning, said Reilly, who is a lawyer.  “It’s something that we had precedence for in our law already,” he said.

Also, they added a surviving-child clause, which allows the child of a deceased senior citizen to remain in his parent’s home for up to six months.

In the same motion with which the board adopted the law, it also made a negative declaration for the state’s environmental quality review — meaning that the law would have no adverse effect on the environment.  At the March 12 meeting, Reilly said that he expected a negative declaration because each individual project would have to undergo the SEQR process.  The town board, which has been eager to pass the law, was the lead agency in the SEQR process — all of the paperwork for it is dated March 12, the same day it was passed.

“It was our responsibility to do the SEQR,” said Democratic Supervisor Thomas Dolin, who signed the environmental assessment form.  Of accepting a negative declaration for SEQR and adopting a law in the same motion, he said, “We can, yes.  We do.”

Later in the meeting, the board took two separate votes on a water project — one for a SEQR declaration and a separate vote to approve the project.

So far, Carrow is the only developer to propose a senior-housing project in town, Reilly said.  And he wants to build on Route 85 behind the medical arts building he constructed — on a site that is commercially zoned.  Without this law, he would likely have had to apply for a variance, to allow residential development in a commercial zone, which is granted fairly regularly, Reilly said, but the density that Carrow is planning on would have been difficult to accommodate.  “It definitely would have been more complicated,” he said.

“It’s definitely a step forward for the town of New Scotland,” Carrow said to the board, upon adoption of the law.  “I just want to thank you personally.”

Other business

In other business at its March 12 meeting, the board:

— Voted unanimously to approve a supplemental agreement for the Clarksville water tank rehabilitation project;

— Voted unanimously to determine that improvements to the Clarksville water district is a Type II action under SEQR, which requires no further action;

— Voted unanimously to begin the Clarksville water district improvement project and authorized the issuance of serial bonds not to exceed $300,000 in principal;

— Voted unanimously to pursue a shared-services grant with the Voorheesville school district to get a generator to be used by the community in emergencies.  The grant is to cover 90 percent of the cost, the school 8 percent, and the town 2 percent, Reilly said; and

— Voted unanimously to amend the fee schedule for the water regulations.

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