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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, June 2, 2011

Planner’s “serious concerns” delay approval of 20 Mall expansion

By Jo E. Prout

GUILDERLAND — As William Lia transforms 20 Mall into Hamilton Square, the planning board here continued a site-plan review of the expansion, again, last week.

Town planner Jan Weston found “serious concerns” with overuse of the site on the latest rendition of a plan to change the parking and traffic patterns, expand the Gold’s Gym within the plaza, relocate and expand the bank there, and add a drive-through restaurant.

The latest plan put forth by engineer Daniel Hershberg includes reduced drive-aisle widths and parking spaces with no room for cars to back out, Weston said in her comments read to the board. Hershberg’s plan also includes spaces that back into an intersection, and an unnecessary but board-appreciated CDTA bus stop along Route 20.

The Capital District Transportation Authority does not want to drive within the plaza, Hershberg told the planning board.

“They want to be off and on Western Avenue as quickly as they can,” he said.

“It works a lot better,” Planning board Chairman Stephen Feeney said, comparing this plan to one discussed three weeks ago. Feeney said that designing parking spaces that back into an intersection does not work.

“We appreciate you accommodating a bus — that’s not something you have to do,” Feeney said.

Feeney and Hershberg discussed whether or not all spaces are used at the plaza.

“Do we know the mall is 80-percent leased? Ninety-percent leased?” Feeney asked, questioning the amount of parking used at peak times of day.

“We know now that there are vacant spaces,” Hershberg said. He said that noon is the peak use time because of fastfood places, the Price Chopper supermarket, and the bank.

The board discussed parking islands as stormwater collectors, and whether or not the 20-foot shoebox-designed lights in the plan match the hamlet’s long-term lighting aesthetic, even while meeting town code for keeping light on the site.

“Mr. Hershberg has made an attempt to address some of these things,” Feeney said.

20 Mall owner William Lia defended the parking plan with spaces that open into the open drive, calling them “the most valuable spots for our consumers and the safest spots for our consumers.”

Lia said that he preferred to get consumers out of the vehicles to the curb without the need to cross a traffic lane.

“Just doesn’t jive”

Savas Ermides, owner of the neighboring Star Plaza at the intersections of routes 20 and 155, wrote a letter to the planning board protesting the plan in early May, and he spoke at the meeting last week.

“Our main concern at Star Plaza is public safety,” Ermides said.

“It just doesn’t jive. It just doesn’t work out,” Ermides said, noting the existing confusing traffic patterns at 20 Mall, and considering the additional 200 to 300 parking spaces that would be needed for the proposed improvements.

Ermides is concerned that a shift of the Gold’s Gym door from the side of 20 Mall to the front of the plaza, close to Star Plaza, would result in 20 Mall customers using Star Plaza’s parking lot.

“Customers that leave their car for two hours…that’s a problem,” Ermides said. “You’re trying to accommodate 20 Mall…at the peril of Star Plaza.”

Ermides said that the original easements between the two properties cannot be used for exits and entrances.

“They were for convenience for Star Plaza and 20 Mall customers to go between [the shopping centers] without exiting and re-entering,” Ermides said. “I’m not going to sit here and take it, and watch my plaza go down the drain” as customers are driven away by fast traffic in the mall, he said.

“What I asked Mr. Hershberg to do is a parking analysis,” Feeney said. “We need to know those things to say, ‘What do they want to do?’ ”

“We need to do something that we can both live with,” Ermides said.

“We’re not doing anything hastily, Mr. Ermides,” Feeney said.

The board agreed to continue the site plan.

“We want to try to move forward,” Feeney said.

Other business

In other business, the planning board:

— Approved a concept presentation by surveyor Steven Walrath to allow Bob and Mary Long to subdivide 29 acres on Frederick Road into two lots, with one lot 10 acres and the other lot 19 acres. Seven acres of wetlands are on one of the lots, Walrath said.

Feeney asked him to show the location of the well and septic on the next plan submitted; and

— Approved an existing in-law apartment on Gari Lane for Carl Klein.

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