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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 29, 2011

Proposal for luxury apartments raises concerns on traffic and density

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — A proposed development for the area behind Town Center Plaza and near Westmere Elementary School has both the town board and planning board concerned with density and traffic issues.

Wolanin Companies Ltd. has requested that nearly 22 acres at 1700 Western Ave. be rezoned from Residential R15, with a minimum lot requirement of 10,000 square feet, and R40, with a minimum lot requirement of 15,000 square feet, to Planned Unit Development, which can exceed zoned density requirements and needs town board approval.

Last week, Ingalls and Associates gave the town supervisor, Kenneth Runion, an addendum to the proposal, answering some of the concerns the town board had raised in August.

Ingalls and Associates assert that residents of the luxury apartments are likely to use mass transportation, thereby alleviating traffic problems.

In response to the board’s concerns on density, the addendum argues that a more dense development would be appropriate for the area, because of it’s proximity to employment and retail locations, which Wolanin believes would result in the increased use of mass-transit, and cites the town’s comprehensive plan as encouraging denser development in the Westmere area.

The town board scheduled a public hearing for Oct. 18 at 7:30 p.m., during which Ingalls and Associates will provide an updated presentation on the project, and residents and board members will be able to ask questions.

Runion said this week that the project was a long way from approval, and the board would be closely examining traffic and density issues more in-depth.

Frank Bossolini, of Ingalls and Associates, first made a presentation to the town board in August, stating that the project would include 248 residential apartments in 14 buildings, a 12,000-square-foot commercial building, a clubhouse, and a pool.

Bossolini said that Wolanin Companies, which also owns the adjacent 1700 Residences and Brandywine Apartments, has determined that the demand for luxury apartments is outpacing the availability; he asserted that other luxury rentals in the area have very low vacancy rates.

Wolanin has estimated that the demand will keep rising, especially with nearby long-term employment developments, like the Albany Nanotech center.

“The target tenant markets will be young professionals, older couples with no children, and tenants that may spend the winter months out-of-state,” said Bossolini.

Greg Wolanin, the builder, addressed the board and told them his vision for the development.

“It would be geared toward a professional client; it would be high-tech and modern,” said Wolanin. The two-story apartments would include both one-and two-bedroom units, with underground garages, and it would be a gated, secure community.

The residents of the development would have direct access to Western Avenue through an existing connection near the 1700 units and onto Johnston Road, on property that Wolanin already owns, behind Price Chopper.

Westmere Elementary School is in close proximity to the proposed development, and board members had concerns about school traffic on the road connecting to Johnston Road becoming interrupted by traffic from the project.

Bossolini said the elementary school has been using the access road under an easement with Wolanin, and that the company would be conducting a traffic study examining traffic from the school, but that the expectation was for residents of the proposed development to take mass transportation or walk. 

Ingalls and Associates’ addendum to the proposal states that the traffic patterns of the school had been observed during peak times, and concludes that the increase in vehicles from the proposed project would not affect the ability for school buses and other school traffic to provide service, particularly in the area of the Westmere Elementary School driveway.

The town’s zoning code restricts allows 12 units per acre in developments, but Runion said this week that the town board typically tries to limit projects to about half that number of units. This proposal would include just fewer than 12 units per acre.

The study quotes the Guilderland Comprehensive Plan saying, “Concentrate higher density development within densely populated areas such as the Westmere/McKownville area…the higher density development is most suitable where public transportation is available, where both essential and non-essential services/products are available, and where pedestrian linkages to shopping recreation, and cultural resources are well developed. Westmere and McKownville provide the most services and the best access to public transportation.”

The impacts to nearby single-family neighborhoods would also be minimal, and though the two-story proposed buildings would be visible from the existing residences, the developer would preserve vegetation, and the site plan would have a 100-foot setback which would include a 50-foot no disturbance buffer.

The addendum concluded by stating that the development would have a positive impact on the revenue for the town, since most residents would not have children, and would not be adding extra students to the school district.

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