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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 3, 2008

Dam failure could scrap French’s Mill development plans

By Jo E. Prout

GUILDERLAND — The town stands to gain 53 undeveloped acres if it approves a subdivision on French’s Mill Road, but a previous dam failure could scrap the deal.

The planning board here last week approved by split vote a preliminary proposal to divide 84.7 acres into four lots. Of the 53 acres that could be given to the town, 20 are upland of wetlands on the property.

Planning board Chairman Stephen Feeney said that later plans must show where houses will be placed on the remaining three lots. Nearby developments required extensive archaeological surveys, he said.

Michael Tucker, of Infinity Engineering in Albany, said that the project would enlarge the water district by extending the forced main pipe. He represented Richard Bohl.

Several neighbors protested the development, calling the area a “wildlife corridor.”

“That creek is literally a highway,” one resident said.

Gail Hine, a French’s Mill Road resident, said that slopes on the property had become unstable because of landslides and a dam failure.

“That’s a part that I wasn’t aware of,” Feeney said. Tucker said he would investigate the possible failure. Feeney was unsure if the town could deny a development in an area with a dam failure.

“We don’t want to put people in harm’s way, but we can’t just take a property and say you can’t build a house,” he said.

The project called for grinder pumps installed in any residence built on the lots.

 “You know, that’s an issue now with the [state Department of Environmental Conservation.] The town does not want to own and maintain grinder pumps,” he said.

Martin Gnacik of the town’s pathways committee said that each parcel is part of the master plan for a network of walking paths.

Calling the proposal a “relatively modest development of the property,” Feeney said, “We recognize the corridor as important. That’s why the town would be interested in taking this piece.”

The board granted concept approval with a vote of 5 to 1. Board member James Cohen voted against the proposal, and said he was not comfortable with the possible flooding on the site. Feeney and board members Terry Coburn, Lindsay Childs, Thomas Robert, and Michael Cleary voted for the approval. Board member Paul Caputo was absent.

The board said that the approval was of the concept, and not the project. The applicant can now continue engineering on the site in greater detail, board members said. Tucker must submit a detailed grading plan, look into the dam failure, show the placement of houses on the lots, and have an archaeological review.

Other business

In other business, the planning board:

— Approved a proposal by engineer Mike Davis of ABD Engineers and Surveyors, representing Camelot Builders, to subdivide 19 acres on Lydius Street into three lots.

“These lots are large,” Davis said. “It’s all sand. We would tie into the town water system.”

The board said that sight-distance on the proposed shared driveway could be an issue.

The topography of the site is varied, with steep slopes. Asked by a resident how homes would fit on the sites, Feeney said, “They can do a lot with bulldozers. They could put a cul-de-sac in and put a lot more [houses].” Feeney also told neighbors that the applicant could build one house on the property and not come before the planning board;

— Approved a site plan submitted by Ruth Brown and DebbieAnne Vigneri to open a massage therapy home occupation on Birchwood Drive. Both are state and nationally licensed massage therapists, who see clients at their Albany business and go offsite to teach massage therapy.

“The driveway is more than adequate,” said planner Jan Weston.

Brown and Vigneri hope to move their business to Guilderland in September;

— Approved a site plan for Fred Wagner of Route 146 to have a home office for an excavation business;

— Approved a site plan for Ronald Longwell of Route 158 to store construction materials for his pool installation business at this home; and

—     Approved a home-based travel agency business use on Wedgewood Lane.

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