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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 22, 2010

Keyhole lots bother planners, public hearing continued

By Jo E. Prout

GUILDERLAND — Engineers and planning board members locked horns last week on the same issues the board objected to three years ago when a proposal was made for a 12-lot subdivision on Church Road.

Although the town’s designated engineering firm has reviewed the proposal and said that the applicant’s engineer has addressed needed changes, the planning board held out for further change. Instead of denying preliminary approval, the board continued the public hearing.

 The board told engineer Scott Lansing, of Malta, that the 151 acres of land zoned for three-acre residences would need public lands to be allotted and preserved. As he said three years ago, Lansing told the board last week that 91 acres would be permanently preserved, but held privately by his applicant, A. Yip. More than half of those acres, Lansing said, would be on buildable land. Town standards require at least 50 percent of open space to be buildable, the board said.

Yip’s property is known for its ravines. The developer hopes to receive a density bonus for preserving a large amount of open space, according to Lansing. The proposal has three keyhole lots, with a cul-de-sac and a long drive into the development off of busy Church Road.

Board member James Cohen, who voiced concerns in 2007 about the public ownership of open space, said last week that public access to the open space was an incentive for the town to grant a density bonus to the applicant. Lansing said that, according to town codes, the proposal met requirements for the bonus.

“It says ‘may.’ I don’t think it says ‘shall,’ ” said Chairman Stephen Feeney about the town’s density bonus wording.

“One of my biggest concerns is…I don’t understand 600-foot driveways with 10- percent slopes. A 10-percent slope is quite steep, and a 600-foot driveway is quite long,” Feeney said.

Lansing’s plan showed a change in ownership of portions of the road, with the town road shortened and the driveways lengthened, Feeney said. The homes were kept in the same place as they were in the previously submitted design, he said. Feeney suggested a different layout.

“Why keyhole lots? I don’t see the benefit. My gut reaction is not to approve anything with these keyhole lots,” Feeney said. “All [the design] does is eliminate 600 feet of town road.”

Lansing said that the owner prefers to keep a buffer area along Church Road, so that lots have been placed elsewhere on the property where keyhole lots are necessary.

“When we can avoid three 600-foot driveways, why would we permit that?” Feeney said.

“The applicant wants to pursue this layout to provide some variance for his clients,” Lansing said.

Feeney said that he, himself, lives off a long driveway, but that long driveways are permitted only if needed. If an emergency occurred and vehicles could not get back to the keyhole lots, the planning board could be questioned about why it had approved the driveway.

“I don’t know. I don’t know how I’d answer that,” Feeney said.

“I don’t like the 600-foot driveways,” agreed board member Paul Caputo. “I don’t like the fact that there’s no public access.”

Sandy Smith, who lives across the street from the proposed project, said that her 700-foot driveway was too difficult for fire department vehicles to get to her husband when he fell out of a tree.

“Mack trucks have gotten stuck,” Smith said. “If I could do it again, I wouldn’t. It’s crazy. Winter is difficult.”

Town Planner Jan Weston said that town regulations discourage keyhole lots.

“Maybe one, or two keyhole lots. I don’t think three make sense,” Feeney said. “You can do it easily without any keyhole lots. If you want one, what are you offering?” he asked Lansing.

Other business

In other business, the planning board:

— Approved the beginning of work on the second phase of the subdivision Twenty West on Route 20. The subdivision had already been approved;

— Approved a site plan for Mario Pennacchia to open a U-Haul rental facility at Joe’s Service Station, which he rents. Pennacchia plans to store four to six U-Haul vehicles on the site; and

— Approved a special-use permit for Scott Leininger’s Red Oak Landscaping business on Western Turnpike.

Asked if the business, near the Watervliet Reservoir, would store pesticides, Leininger said, “None are stored onsite.”

“Nice to see the business stay in the town,” Feeney said.

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