Saratoga County

Growth ebbs along Northway

The Northway corridor towns that have had nearly uninterrupted growth since the 1960s are seeing few

Categories: Schenectady County

The Northway corridor towns that have had nearly uninterrupted growth since the 1960s are seeing fewer development applications as the recession and housing slump continues.

The steepest drop-offs in applications for new housing and commercial projects are in Clifton Park, Halfmoon and Wilton in the historic growth corridor, said Michael Valentine, the senior county planner.

Valentine said he didn’t have hard data, but there’s a general sense developers are making fewer proposals that need planning reviews.

“We’re noticing what comes in is less and less. And the subdivisions, they’re three- and four-lot subdivisions, nothing big,” Valentine said.

The Capital Region housing market has had a significant decline in the number of sales in the last year, though Saratoga County has been unusual in seeing little, if any, decline in the median purchase price of around $255,000.

Now developers are responding by pursuing fewer projects, even in the high-growth towns.

Subdivisions and commercial projects generally require town environmental and zoning approvals, reviews that can be extensive for a major project. Across the board, though, town officials said they’re seeing fewer big projects.

Wilton is typical of the towns whose growth has been spurred by development of the Northway in the 1960s, but has seen activity drop off.

Its population has grown from 2,984 in 1970 to about 13,000 today, and Northway Exit 15 has been developed, and then redeveloped, as a commercial shopping destination.

But in 2008, Wilton issued just 10 new commercial building permits and 34 residential building permits, the fewest in more than a decade.

“Things have definitely slowed down,” said Wilton Planning Director Kate Maynard. “What we’re seeing is more [developers] come in for pre-application conferences, people not yet ready to make a commitment.”

Most of the application activity in Wilton is for commercial rather than residential development, Maynard said. There are also 595 housing units the town Planning Board has approved in recent years but that haven’t yet been built.

Halfmoon’s planning office has also seen a slowdown in the last three or four months, said Stephen Watts Jr., the town’s building and development administrator.

The town just received a big project rezoning application: a proposal to develop 244 condominium units and a marina on the former Krause’s Restaurant property on the Mohawk River. But such big new projects are the exception now.

“We still have people who want to come in and open businesses, but it’s not at the same hectic pace as before,” Watts said. “Halfmoon and Saratoga County are still in better shape than the rest of upstate New York.”

In addition to the economy, Valentine said another factor slowing development in the Northway corridor towns is that the best soils for building, the well-drained sandy soils, have already been used.

“There’s more and more projects where people want to use marginal soils,” Valentine said.

That can mean municipal water and sewer needs to be extended to need locations, he said, a costly undertaking that communities often expect developers to pay for.

The Malta town planning department is still busy, but not with the major residential subdivisions it was seeing several years ago.

Much of its current work is directly related to preparations for the Advanced Micro Devices computer chip factory being planned at the Luther Forest Technology Campus.

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