An improvement in relations between City Hall and developer Brian Rohloff will likely lead to construction of at least one of his projects, most of which are on the south side of the city.
Another result of the thawing in relations has been the substantial reduction in size, starting last week, of the piles of clay and shale that had been sitting for several months on a large empty lot on North Main Street downtown. That’s the former site of Joyce’s Log Cabin restaurant, which was demolished in 2004.
Those piles were a visible symbol of Rohloff’s dispute with the city. He stored them there after buying them at a Northway construction site because the city was blocking a project of his on Edna Avenue, where he had intended to use the fill.
Now, Rohloff said Tuesday, he has gotten the green light for the Edna Avenue project, which will involve building six two-family houses, and he is moving the fill down there.
Rohloff had been in conflict with city Building Inspector Stephen Sgambati, who on the advice of the city attorney had recused himself from dealing with the developer. However, Sgambati confirmed Tuesday that he has issued a flood plain development permit for Rohloff’s Edna Avenue work. Rohloff credited Mayor Anthony Sylvester for moving the project forward.
Sylvester confirmed Tuesday that he wants to see Rohloff build this and other projects, and has assured him he will get building permits this week. The mayor said he is taking legal and engineering advice about who exactly will be issuing the permits.
Rohloff said he hopes to put in foundations on Monday. Already, he said, the clay fill has been put down around where the foundations will be, and some of the shale has been used for roadway construction there.
Sgambati is scheduled to retire at the end of this year. Rohloff said he hopes to present to the next building inspector his plan to build a strip mall at the Joyce’s site downtown. The city blocked a prior strip mall plan he submitted, he said.
Rohloff also intends to keep building on the city’s south side, on the short streets going east from South Main Street to the Hudson River.
He is planning to buy four more lots on Edna Avenue, and put up two single-family houses on them. He also has plans south of Edna Avenue, including on Larkspur Avenue, where he has already built three houses and wants to build more. Rohloff said he also wants to develop a nearby “paper street” at the extreme south end of Mechanicville, and put up as many houses there as the city will permit.
Sylvester said the land would have to be sold by auction, but that he is in favor of Rohloff’s proposals to build more housing and contribute to the city’s tax base. Mechanicville, once an industrial hub, is now a bedroom community.
Rohloff said he has put up six buildings in the city in the last year.
Sylvester, however, was less enthused about Rohloff’s proposal to buy land in the city’s mostly empty light industrial park and put up buildings on speculation, although he did not rule it out. Sylvester said he is still leaning toward a proposal from Leonard Bus Sales to locate there. Rohloff and others have said this would amount to giving up too much valuable industrial land for bus parking. Rohloff is also offering to pay substantially more per acre than is Logistics One, which would lease the land to Leonard.
Sylvester said there are several proposals for the industrial park land under review.
The mayor said the state Department of Environmental Conservation-sponsored cleanup of the worst pollution at the industrial park site has been completed, but the land will remain classified as a brownfield. The pollution remaining includes low levels of arsenic from treated railroad ties, he said. The industrial park is on the site of a former rail yard, and a new rail yard is planned nearby in Halfmoon.