Public hearing continued on Wolanin's 210 luxury apartments

The Enterprise — Anne Hayden Harwood
Luxury housing or traffic burden? The Wolanin Companies, Ltd. presentation, at a public hearing on Tuesday, of its 210-unit apartment complex, led to divided opinions on whether the upscale community would provide much-needed modernized housing, or would lead to traffic congestion. The public hearing was continued until April.

GUILDERLAND — The Wolanin Companies Ltd. still has not received approval for its proposed subdivision at 1700 Western Avenue, after five years, and two recent appearances before the town board.

At a packed public hearing on Tuesday night, five residents spoke out against the project, and two employees of the Wolanin Companies, as well as one resident of another Wolanin-owned complex, spoke in favor of it.

The public hearing, however, was continued until April 1, because of an error in notifications about Tuesday’s hearing.

Several of the residents who spoke to the town board and urged it not to approve the subdivision said they had not received a notice that the hearing would be taking place; all residents living within 1,000 feet of the property border of a proposed project are supposed to receive notice.

Supervisor Kenneth Runion said the list of residents to be notified was put together using a global-positioning system, and the device incorrectly used the center of the project’s property as the starting point for the 1,000-foot radius, rather than the border.

Runion said Jan Weston, the town planner, would be putting together a new list of residents to notify, using a “better” GPS device. The list, he said, will be sent out within the coming week.

The 22-acre parcel of land is currently zoned Residential R15 and Residential R40, and the Wolanin Companies is asking for a re-zone to Planned Unit Development, so it can build a 210-unit luxury apartment complex.

One of the main reasons it hasn’t gotten approval over the past five years is the concern over traffic problems due to density.

The traffic was the main issue presented by the five residents who spoke against the project at Tuesday’s public hearing.

A man who lives on Janet Lane said, “Categorically, our neighborhood 150,000-percent opposes the project.” He said there was a petition against the project signed by 84 people.

The complex would have more than 500 parking spaces for the 210 units, a number of cars which, the residents said, would make it impossible to get out onto Western Avenue.

Another concern voiced was the possibility that the Wolanin Companies would attempt to create a second entry and exit point to the complex off of Newman Road, although that is not in the current proposal. Residents said through-traffic on Newman Road would lead to problems and confusion on the dead-end and one-way streets in that vicinity.

The project’s engineer, Dave Ingalls, of Ingalls and Associates, said he did not foresee Newman Road being used as an access point, unless it was requested as an emergency entrance by the Westmere Fire Department.

Vincent Wolanin, the founder of Wolanin Companies, spoke at the hearing and said he would “put in writing that we will not go out onto Newman unless the fire department wants to use it for an emergency.”

Other residents opposing the project said they felt more apartments aren’t needed in town, as there are rentals standing vacant elsewhere.

Wolanin had previously stated that the development, which would be geared toward professionals of all ages and senior residents who wanted to keep a home in Guilderland, but no longer want the stress and upkeep of owning a large house, would benefit the town in terms of taxes, and provide modern luxury housing not available at this time.

“Virtually all of the similar housing in town is over 40 years old,” Wolanin said.

An employee of the Wolanin Companies said she had received 12 phone calls on Tuesday alone from people asking about vacancy at the 1700 Designer Residences, another complex owned by Wolanin in Guilderland. She had to tell them, she said, that there were no vacancies.

Wolanin said the modern, gated community, featuring enclosed garages, on-site recreation, 65-percent green space, a clubhouse, and a pool, would be in high demand.

The density of the complex, he said, would fit in with the town’s comprehensive plan, which says to “concentrate higher density development within densely population areas such as the Westmere/McKownville area…Westmere and McKownville provide the most services and the best access to public transportation.”

The matter will be discussed again at the continued public hearing at the Guilderland Town Hall, on April 1, at 7:30 p.m.

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