Halfmoon at heart of building boom
CAPITAL REGION If you’re looking for housing in the Capital Region, you should have no trouble finding a place in Halfmoon.
The southern Saratoga County town led the Capital Region last year in residential development, according to recently released Census Bureau data.
If you’re not surprised, you’re hardly alone; Halfmoon has been leading the pack for some time now. With water and sewer hookups, a wealth of undeveloped land, and close proximity to chip manufacturing giant GlobalFoundries, the once-tiny town is now one of the fastest growing in the region.
“With the investments that they’ve made, like additional water
and sewer infrastructure, over the last decade or so, they remain in a very strong position for development,” said Rocky Ferraro, executive director of the Capital District Regional Planning Commission, a planning and resource center that analyzes data and trends in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady counties.
The commission released 2012 building permit data for each Capital Region municipality in its most recent newsletter, showing building permits increased 26.2 percent across the entire region last year after two straight years of decreases. Its figures are from the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Census Bureau’s construction statistics division.
The town of Halfmoon issued 181 building permits amounting to 255 units worth $41.3 million last year, an increase of nearly 50 percent from the year before. Town Planning Director Rich Harris said the Census figures are actually lower than reality, since not all permits were reported consistently from month to month.
“We think our numbers are actually quite higher than that,” he said.
Most residential development has cropped up in the central and northern pockets of town, he added. When the town adopted its comprehensive plan in 2003, officials actually predicted those areas of town would be targeted for light industry and manufacturing and have been surprised to see a residential explosion instead.
“We’re not seeing as much development pressure in the southern and eastern part of town for a few reasons,” said Harris. “Some of the reasons are the lack of municipal water and sewer. There are only pockets of it available to some of the farmlands and residentially zoned areas, but otherwise you would have to bring it in. And then there’s the topography; there are lots of grade changes and hills in the eastern part of town.”
Residential development has also exploded in the town of Colonie, which trailed only Halfmoon for the most building permits issued last year.
Located along the northern border of Albany County, Colonie issued 104 building permits for 176 units worth about $42 million — an increase of 21 percent from the year before. Most of this development has occurred in Boght Corners, a hamlet near the intersection of Boght Road and Route 9.
“Most of the new development, and there are several new developments in town, are in that area,” said town spokeswoman Sara Wiest. “And it makes sense, because it really is one of the largest undeveloped tracts of land that are still left in town.”
Some of those developments are new in the last few years and nearly sold out, like Lake Ridge, Parkside Estates, Cornerstone Meadows and Morningview Farms. Others are being done in phases and still to come, like Manchester Heights and the Condominiums at Canterbury Crossings.
The developers building these new homes tout things like access to municipal water and sewer, the town’s highly ranked schools, low taxes and good home values and their proximity to shopping centers.
“The fact is we have a large amount of previously undeveloped land that lends itself to new development,” said Wiest. “But beyond that, we have excellent schools, one of the lowest tax rates of all the surrounding areas, we’re centrally located, and we’re a beautiful town. I mean, it’s just beautiful here. And we are traditionally one of the safest towns in the country.”
Other Capital Region municipalities that issued a good chunk of building permits last year include the Saratoga County town of Charlton with 95 permits, the city of Saratoga Springs with 69 permits and the town of Ballston with 65 permits; the Schenectady County town of Niskayuna with 52 permits; and the Albany County town of Bethlehem with 51 permits.