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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 16, 2009

Size-cap bill for 85K square feet goes to county

By Saranac Hale Spencer

NEW SCOTLAND — Councilman Richard Reilly’s controversial bill to govern the town’s commercial zone was sent to the Albany County Planning Board for review in a unanimous vote by the town board last night.

Councilman Douglas LaGrange’s version of the law died in a 2-to-3 vote, with LaGrange and Supervisor Thomas Dolin voting to send it to the county’s planning board and Reilly, with Councilwomen Peg Neri and Deborah Baron, voting against it.

The two bills each stemmed from Local Law I, which was presented to the town board last December by the two remaining members of a formerly five-member committee charged with advising the town board on updating the zoning in the commercial area.  It capped the square footage for single retail buildings at 50,000 and shopping centers at 100,000.

Representatives from Cazenovia-based Sphere Development, which ignited the zoning debate when it made public last spring plans to develop a shopping center to be anchored with a Target store in the commercial zone near the intersection of routes 85 and 85A, were at last night’s meeting.  The project was first presented as a 750,000 square foot shopping center and was later scaled back by half after strong community feedback, the developers said.  When asked last month if the project was still on the table given the economic climate, managing partner Kurt Wendler said, “The only thing that’s going to determine if this project is viable is the result of this zoning,” referring to Local Law I.

“Our platform is to bring attention to Local Law I,” said Annie Brill last month of the PRIDE of New Scotland, which formed in opposition to the bill. “I don’t think square footage is the key,” Brill said, citing the size cap as a major problem with the proposed law.

After Local Law I was forwarded to the town’s planning board for review, it responded, in a 5-to-2 vote, with a reworked law that included much higher square footage figures in the definitions section.  Reilly reworked the planning board’s response, making the size caps 85,000 square feet for a retail store and 250,000 square feet for a shopping center, and proposed it as Local Law B.

Reading from a written address to the town board last night, Brill said that, while PRIDE doesn’t support a cap of any size, it would accept Local Law B.

Daniel Mackay, a founding member of New Scotlanders 4 Sound Economic Development, which supports LaGrange’s Local Law C, an amended version of Local Law I, told the board last night that, with the passionately divided sentiment of the public, it would be best to send both laws for review.  “That action would be the most respectful thing, he said.

In the packed meeting hall, filled with two clearly divided camps of residents, one of which wore green buttons, the other of which has planted red lawn signs in their yards, Paul Feigenbaum began his remarks, which were largely critical of the board, by noting that in the room, “We’ve got people wearing green badges and we’ve got people with big red signs.”

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