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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, November 19, 2009

Green office to grow in commercial zone?

By Saranac Hale Spencer

NEW SCOTLAND — Plans for construction in the town’s commercial zone met with a tepid reaction from the planning board in its first meeting after an election that will likely change its players.

The majority of the seven-member board backed a losing ticket in November’s election, which was defined by planning and zoning issues, particularly the future of the commercial zone.

A couple of years ago, before the controversy that shaped the election started brewing over Cazenovia-based Sphere Development’s plans to build a Target-anchored shopping center at the corner of routes 85 and 85A, Dr. Lisa Bevilacqua began making plans to build a doctor’s office in the area.

About a year ago, she bought a 3.16-acre plot on Route 85A, between Falvo’s meat market and the Stonewell Plaza, where she plans to build a roughly 29,000-square-foot medical office.

Currently working out of rented space several miles down New Scotland Avenue, Bevilacqua wants to own the building with a few other doctors in what she likened to a condominium arrangement.

Appearing before the board with Lynn Sipperly, of Sipperly & Associates, Bevilacqua’s plan for a two-story medical building met with few questions from the board on its first look at the plan.

The building will cover about 10 percent of the property, Sipperly said, and 38 or 39 percent will be used for parking and sidewalks, which leaves more than half of it open for green space.

Bevilacqua plans to “build green,” she said this week, adding that she chose the contractor, Rockford Construction, because of its reputation for environmental sustainability.

The incoming majority of the town board, which will be installed in January, has indicated that it will make zoning updates a priority and it will likely give attention to design standards.  Asked how open she is to input from the community regarding the aesthetics of the project, Bevilacqua answered, “Completely.  It needs to be part of the community.”

She chose the area because many of the patients in her family practice are from Altamont, Voorheesville, and nearby communities.  Bevilacqua’s practice requires 7,000 square feet and she hopes to bring in complementary practices, like radiology and physical therapy, she said.

Sipperly asked that the town help in getting water and sewer service, both of which are rare commodities in that part of New Scotland.  Keith Menia, of the town’s engineering firm, Stantec, said that getting water won’t likely be a problem, but getting access to a sanitary sewer system might be more difficult.

The board voted unanimously to authorize Stantec to begin the process for creating an escrow account for the project.

Bevilacqua hopes to be up and running by July of 2011, she said this week, concluding, “The whole concept is really to serve the community.”

Size-cap recs

Responding to a request for input from the town board regarding its latest size-cap bill — this time including a 68,500-square-foot limit on single retail buildings — the planning board suggested that the town revert to an earlier figure of 85,000 square feet.

The size cap was a major issue in November’s election — with the victors supporting a 50,000-square-foot cap and their opponents opposed to a cap — but it was a point of debate in town long before that.

At the beginning of this year, the town board sent a bill with a 50,000-square-foot cap on single stores and a 100,000-square-foot cap on shopping centers to the planning board for review and received a response suggesting that the allowable size of malls be tripled. 

The following bill, drafted by Councilman Richard Reilly, included an 85,000-square-foot cap on single stores and a 250,000-square-foot cap on shopping centers.

In the spring, that bill met with disapproval from the county’s planning board and was later, this fall, amended to the form to which the planning board was responding.

Planning board member Cynthia Elliott cited the new proposal for a 29,000-square-foot medical building and the recently constructed Stewart’s shop in the commercial zone, saying of the combined square-footage, “It’s a spot on that Bender melon farm,” referring to the 179-acre parcel on which Sphere planned to build the shopping center.

“Why even put a commercial zone in place if you can’t build anything on it?” asked planning board Chairman Robert Stapf as he reached for a map.  He had drawn circumferences on the map to illustrate the number of structures that could be built considering the proposed requirement that, “No Community Shopping Center [up to 200,000 square feet] may be located within two miles of any other Community Shopping Center [and] no more than three Neighborhood Shopping Centers [up to 125,000 square feet] may be located within two miles of each other.  No more than one Neighborhood Shopping Center may be located within two miles of any Community Shopping Center.”

The planning board’s recommendations include increasing the size of neighborhood shopping centers to 150,000 square feet and community shopping centers to 250,000 square feet.  It also recommends changing the two-mile space required between malls to 1,500 feet in the first case, 3,000 feet in the second, and 1,500 feet in the third.

The board voted, 5 to 2, to send the recommendations back to the town board — Charles Voss and Kevin Kroencke, as expected, voted against the measure.  They were also the only two members of the planning board who supported the winning slate of candidates, who favor smaller caps.  Stapf, Elliott, Elizabeth Stewart, Lorraine Tuzzolo, and Robert Smith voted to send on the recommendations.

Other business

In other business at its Nov. 10 meeting, the planning board:

— Held a public hearing for an application from Kimberly Zimmerman to operate a concession vehicle, to serve breakfast and lunch, at 1970 New Scotland Rd.  The board later voted, 6 to 0, with Cynthia Elliott absent, to refer the application to the zoning board;

— Held a public hearing for an application from Keith Tuzzolo, who owns property on Youman’s Road, in the commercial zone, to build a 42- by 48-foot structure in addition to the barn that he uses for housing equipment for his business.  The board later voted, 5 to 0, with Elliott absent and Lorraine Tuzzolo abstaining, to refer the application to the zoning board;

— Held a public hearing for an application submitted by Chester Boehlke to extend the cover of two existing pole-type buildings by adding a 22- by-60-foot portion to each to allow for more storage on the property, located in the industrial zone.  The board later voted, 6 to 0, with Elliott absent, to refer the application to the zoning board;

— Voted, 6 to 0, with Elliott absent, to refer an area variance requested by Oakley Salisbury III to allow for his front porch to the zoning board;

— Voted, 5 to 1, with Elliott abstaining, since she arrived at the end of discussion and Kroencke voting against, to refer two area variances to the zoning board for Peter Baltis to build two new dwellings.  The lots had been designated for wells years ago, he told the board, but, 15 years ago, public water became available and he had thought that the original zoning, which would have allowed for the buildings, would have been “grandfathered in.”

Since the zoning has changed, there are new side-yard setback requirements from which Baltis was seeking relief.  Several people, though, own 20-by-20-foot parcels around wellheads on those properties, Kroencke being one of them.  Before the vote, Kroencke identified himself as having a possible interest, but received no immediate advice as to whether he should abstain — he chose to vote; and

— Set a public hearing regarding an area variance for a water tank as part of the Kensington Woods residential development for the next planning board meeting, and sent the area-variance request from the project’s lawyer to the zoning board in a 6-to-0 vote, with Elliott absent.

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