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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 22, 2011

Size cap moot?

By Saranac Hale Spencer

NEW SCOTLAND — A size cap on commercial development in town, long the center of controversy, might soon be only a bridge to stave off large-scale development until the town revamps its zoning code.

Councilman Daniel Mackay is hoping to have new zoning code in place within the next eight to 10 months, he said this week.  A committee charged with studying the town’s commercial zone for a Capital District Transportation Committee linkage grant plans to recommend changes to the town’s zoning code and projects its work will be finished next April.  Two public workshops, meant to gain input from the community, are slated to be part of the project — the first one will likely be held at the end of November.

Mackay won a seat on the town board two years ago on a platform of controlled commercial growth in an election dominated by development issues.  He had been a founding member of the New Scotlanders 4 Sound Economic Development, a community group that sprang up in response to Cazenovia-based Sphere Development’s plans three years ago to build a Target-anchored shopping center on the old Bender melon farm.  The group advocated for a cap of 50,000 square feet for a single retail building and 100,000 square feet for a shopping center.

A few months into his term, Mackay drafted a bill with those specifications that was defeated by a two-member minority on the town board — since property owners in the commercial zone had filed a protest petition, the bill needed a supermajority of four on the five-member board in order to pass.

Both of the minority members’ terms are up this year and neither is seeking re-election in November.  Richard Reilly, a Democrat, announced last spring that he wouldn’t seek another term and Deborah Baron, also a Democrat, did not get her party’s support for another run, largely due to her record on development.  Mackay, also a Democrat, is anticipating that the two candidates who got the Democratic nod for town board  — William Hennessey and Patricia Snyder — in the heavily Democratic town will support his bill.

Following the introduction of an amended size-cap bill that included a restriction on subdivision earlier this year, Mackay met with some of the large land owners in the commercial zone, including Maura Mottolese, who is the lawyer for the owners of the former Bender melon farm and the daughter of one of them.  He proposed changing the law to allow for subdivision of large parcels at three- to five-year intervals, he said this week.  The reason for including the restriction was to keep people from getting around the cap figures by splitting up their land.

If a new zoning code is eight to 10 months away, Mackay asked this week, “In some ways, is a size cap even necessary?”

“If I have confidence that this committee is going to produce good code, I should stand behind that,” he said of the zoning recommendations that are expected to come out of the linkage study.

“I will have failed my responsibility with the public if it’s not codified this time,” said Mackay, who campaigned two years ago on a platform that included a size cap.  “With four votes, we can deliver that reform,” he said.

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