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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 5, 2012

Zoning future of New Scotland to be revealed next month
By Tyler Murphy

NEW SCOTLAND –– The advisory committee tasked with recommending future zoning regulations for the town of New Scotland held its final public meeting March 26, before a planned presentation of the group’s draft plan is due this May.

The committee has found itself at the center of a long community debate on how to handle large-scale development near the intersection of routes 85 and 85A. The preliminary plan discussed by the committee appears to classify some of the disputed area as natural conservation, restricting possible development. A public map and the detailed plan will be released next month.

Hundreds of acres of land at the intersection is zoned for commercial development but has only ever been used for agriculture. A public controversy on how to use the land began in 2008 after Cazenovia-based Sphere Development proposed building a Target-anchored shopping center near the site. The property, the former Bender melon farm, has been owned by a group of investors since 1971.

The committee began creating the draft plan after receiving feedback from a previous workshop held at the end of 2011, which 100 residents attended. Many residents expressed a desire to keep the area more rural and specifically a number of them commented on the area of routes 85 and 85A, asking it remain as open land or be used for a quaint, village-like development.

Members have declined to release a copy of the plan pending the public release but many commented on the material during last week’s meeting. One area of contention was designating a large swath of valuable roadside property along Route 85A near its intersection with 85 as a natural conservation area.

“There were two primary reasons,” explained Michael Welti, a planner with Behan Planning Associates hired by the town to work with the committee.

First, there was strong support from the public to keep the area along the road as natural woodland and, second, soils in the area are considered of good quality for agriculture.

The committee will distribute the plan a few weeks before presenting the material at a public workshop, tentatively scheduled for the second half of May at Voorheesville’s high school, explained Michael Welti, a planner with Behan Planning Associates hired by the town to work with the committee.

Some on the committee requested more time to work on the plan but Welti said it is important to get information to the public. “Some might not be 100 percent ready but we want to get something out there for people to see,” he said. “There is a need to push forward the best we can.”

The group also discussed requiring a certain amount of open or green space for property owners seeking to build in development zones. A proposed idea would require businesses not to build on half of their land.

“Fifty percent in these larger development areas balance the development and conservation,” said Welti. He explained the space requirement would reduce building crowding and help maintain New Scotland’s “agricultural character.”

Another issue Welti said he wanted to address in the plan was a large zone deemed “rural residential,” which would covered nearly half the town. Some members on the board complained the zone was not specific enough to highlight conservation areas.

Welti said a description of the area is covered more extensively in the text of the plan but members wanted the map illustration to better show it. The map itself is an advisory document and does not represent property lines or actual physical boundaries.

At the May workshop, Welti said, the group would review the report before answering questions from the public. Copies of the plan will be released at least a week prior to the event and will be available on the town’s website or by directly contacting the town, he said.

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