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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, February 18, 2010

Public hearing on March 11
County planners approve size-cap proposal

By Saranac Hale Spencer

NEW SCOTLAND — The latest version of the long-debated size-cap law now is closer to passage than it has been in its roughly year-long history.

Albany County’s planning board voted unanimously yesterday to approve Local Law B, which would limit the size of retail stores to 50,000 square feet and shopping centers to 100,000 square feet in the town commercial zone.

An earlier version of the bill, with higher size caps and no limit on the number of retail establishments allowed in the sizeable commercial zone, met with disapproval from the county’s planning board last May.

“Proposed Local Law B of 2010 includes restrictions on development that presently do not exist in the zoning ordinance,” says the staff opinion from the county’s planning office.  “The proposed law addresses the previous concern of the ACPB for regulation of development density within the commercial zone,” it says. 

Last year’s version died after the county’s opinion was issued since a supermajority of the board would be required to pass it — the board was often split, three to two, on zoning and planning issues, so the four votes needed to pass the bill weren’t obtainable.

Since then, the majority on the town board has changed.  November’s election was won by a slate of three candidates — Supervisor Thomas Dolin and councilmen Douglas LaGrange and Daniel Mackay — who ran on a platform of strict size caps.

Although the latest bill was approved by the county, it may still require a supermajority of the town board to pass into law, since an owner of at least 20 percent of the land affected by zoning changes can protest such changes, thereby forcing a supermajority vote.

Heated debate over zoning issues was sparked in New Scotland when Sphere Development, of Cazenovia, proposed building a Target-anchored shopping center on the former Bender melon farm, which makes up about 200 acres of the commercial zone.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they do file such a petition,” Dolin said yesterday of the owners of the Bender property.  “I’m not sure it’ll make a difference,” he said, adding that he’s optimistic that Councilman Richard Reilly and Councilwoman Deborah Baron, who have favored larger cap sizes in the past, will support Local Law B.  The board will vote on the bill following a public hearing on March 11 at 6:30 p.m.

“I don’t think I’m going to speculate,” Baron said of how she might vote if a supermajority is necessary to pass Local Law B.  It was clear from the outcome of November’s election that people want the smaller size caps, she said when asked what she thought of the bill itself.  Her biggest concern with the bill is that it allows for residential development, she said, noting that the town has two major residential developments in works already.  The commercial zone should be retained for office and small retail, she said, “I would like to see residential excluded.”

Reilly couldn’t be reached for comment late Wednesday.

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