Developers of a long-stalled subdivision off Lisha Kill Road will resubmit their proposal without the controversial full connection to Lori Drive, town and county officials said Thursday.
In the connection’s place will be proposed a breakaway gate to allow emergency vehicles access, but not regular traffic.
Town and county officials billed the solution as a settlement in the long-running battle over the connector. But both sides acknowledged there is no guarantee it will become a reality.
The Niskayuna Planning Board approved the 73-unit subdivision in 2005 and expressly required the full connection. When a Planning Board member proposed the same compromise then, it had no support.
Town Supervisor Joe Landry Thursday called the proposal a “win-win for everybody,” saying it addresses resident concerns over safety and gets the project moving.
“The developer can begin construction and the county withdraws its appeal. There will no longer be legal action,” Landry said. “I can’t see anybody who would be opposed to it.”
Representatives of the developers, Paulsen Development and J&E Cerone, could not be reached Thursday.
The proposal comes three weeks after the county lost its bid to further block the subdivision. The county blocked the project over concerns of traffic problems on Lisha Kill Road in the event a full connection were made to Lori Drive.
The county’s move was hailed by residents of Lori Drive. They have argued from the beginning that a full connection could clog their street with cars and make it dangerous for children.
But the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court found in January that the county was arbitrary in denying permits for street connections necessary for the project. The decision upheld a lower court finding.
The county had the option to ask the state Court of Appeals to hear the case. But there was no guarantee that the appeal would be heard.
County attorney Christopher Gardner confirmed the agreement. He said the county is dropping further appeals in exchange for the resubmittal to the Planning Board with the compromise gate.
“I think we’re all cautiously optimistic that the Planning Board will take a good look at this,” Gardner said.
Asked what the county’s response would be if the Planning Board stuck by its 2005 vote, Gardner said they would have to abide by it.
“That’s the risk here,” Gardner said.
Landry has said he is against a full connection, a position at odds with his predecessor Luke Smith.
The Planning Board has undergone changes as well since its 2005 vote.
Board members have left and been replaced. Indeed, the board member who proposed the gate compromise then, James McKinney, left last year. McKinney was the only member to support the gate. In the end, however, he joined the rest of the board in unanimously approving the final plan.
Two Planning Board members contacted Thursday night indicated they had yet to hear of the new proposal. Neither flat-out rejected it when told of it by a reporter.
Planning Board member Leslie Gold, who was a member of the board for the 2005 vote, noted culs-de-sac are generally limited in length by town code.
She also noted emergency access is not the same as having a full connection.
“I have to look at it,” she said, “but I think it’s not a desirable way to do it.”
Ellen Malkis, who has become a voting member since 2005, said she needs more information but would be open to looking at it fresh.
“I’d like to get educated and see what the comments were.”
Lori Drive resident Robert Sweeney responded to the proposal with optimism. He noted it was an option that residents had proposed originally.
“If it can be held out of court by making it a permanent gate, I think the people of Lori Drive would be happy with that.”
Sweeney has the unique position of being a newly appointed ad hoc member of the Planning Board. That means he can be called upon to vote if there is an absence.
Asked what he would do if that situation came up on the Lori Drive vote, he said he would have to seek advice.
“Being new, I definitely wouldn’t want to do something that would be a conflict of interest,” he said.
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