The Niskayuna Town Board formally did an about face on the controversial Stanford Crossings building project, voting to pull out of an important appeal.
The vote, which followed changes in board membership, means the town will no longer participate in challenging a judge’s decision last year to halt the project on procedural grounds.
It also comes less than a month before arguments on the issue are to be heard at the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court.
However, the net effect of the vote may be minimal. The developers behind the project are expected to continue with their appeal.
Regardless of the impact, board member Julie McDonnell said she believes the move was important to ensure that no more town money would be spent on the appeal.
“It is important for us as the Town Board to send a message to the court and to the residents that we want an environmental impact study and we want a chance to examine all the potential uses for this property,” she said.
McDonnell voted along with Supervisor Joe Landry and board member Liz Orzel Kasper in removing the town from the appeal. Landry and McDonnell were first elected in November, tipping the balance on the board against the appeal; Kasper had opposed the appeal and was re-elected.
Board members Diane O’Donnell and Maria Freund abstained, saying the board did not have adequate time to discuss the issue and consult with town attorneys. They were just notified of the resolution Friday.
Both O’Donnell and Freund both indicated in November they wanted to go ahead with the appeal. Their stance, along with then-Supervisor Luke Smith’s, kept the appeal going.
Preservationists — hoping to save the old Ingersoll Home and its grounds from commercial development — won a ruling in September, when a state Supreme Court judge sided with them and froze the Stanford Crossings project until a town approval process was corrected, which could take months.
Linda Champagne, who has helped lead the preservation effort, praised Tuesday’s move. She said it gives them added assurance the site will remain as is until the appeal is complete.
Highbridge Development is buying the property for $3.5 million from the Ingersoll Adult Home and hopes to build seven buildings around the original structure.
The adult home is currently on the site but is expected to relocate to a new building on Consaul Road that is awaiting completion. The new facility was not affected by the ruling.
Also Tuesday, Landry took heat from some public speakers for a change in the board’s meeting schedule. The schedule was changed earlier this month to include only one agenda session and one regular meeting each month. That is down from the previous schedule that regularly saw two each during a month.
Meeting times were also pushed up from 7 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Lorene Zabin, who often attends meetings, said she felt the town was taking a back seat to county business. Landry also must attend county meetings in his other job as counsel to the Legislature.
“I sort of resent that we’re second-hand citizens here,” Zabin said.
Landry declined to respond directly to Zabin’s comments afterward, but he noted the meeting schedule was approved by the board earlier.
Nonetheless, he said, it’s not set in stone.
“We heard what people said tonight and we’ll review it and look at it.”
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