Elizabeth and Phil Contompasis proudly talk about how they chose their home in Country Walk Estates.
They lived in modest home off bustling Altamont Avenue until saving enough money to buy a newer home in the suburban enclave. Now, they live in a home with a wooded backyard.
“We knew there was vacant land around and near us, but we’re surrounded by established and newly developed houses,” she said. “We had a reasonable expectation that the zoning would not change.”
Now a developer is seeking a zone change that would allow him to turn six acres of the vacant land into cluster of apartment buildings in an area they fear will disrupt their neighborhood. The Contompasises say the new complex off nearby Fuez Road will drastically change the neighborhood they chose to raise their family.
“It is a not a logical fit and would not add value to the area,” she said. “It would destroy the character of the existing neighborhood of single family homes.”
And they have support from dozens of residents within their neighborhood. Already, nine of 10 property owners living close to the acreage have signed a petition in protest of changing the zoning from agricultural uses to multifamily residential.
Residents turning out to a public hearing on proposal blasted it as another example of a developer trying to goad the town into spot zoning. Others questioned why the town would bring in a population that might lack the same pride of ownership they share.
“This, in fact, is the antithesis of comprehensive planning,” said Richard Malaczynski, a resident of Deer Path Lane in the nearby Eldorado Acres neighborhood.
Others questioned why Rotterdam needs more apartments. Long Pond Village added 192 units, plus there is a proposal in the works to build a 248-unit apartment complex off North Thompson Street.
“We can’t fill the apartments we already have and there’s too many new ones on the horizon,” Contompasis said.
The proposed zone change is needed for a proposal to build five apartment buildings with a total of 18 units. Plans were once in the works to build five single-family homes on the property several years ago, but the developer never completed the application.
Developer Bill Barber disputed claims by the residents. He said they sounded “snobbish” for not wanting to allow a development where people who can’t afford homes can rent.
“This is a viable alternative to owning a house,” he said.
The property is located immediately east of where McLane Foodservice had once hoped to build a 168,000-square-foot distribution center on 27 acres straddling the border of Rotterdam and Princetown. The company abandoned the project while nearing the end of the approval process in 2008, citing delays and the downturn of the economy.
Rotterdam’s Planning Commission gave the apartment complex zone a positive recommendation last month, forwarding the proposal to the Town Board. During the public hearing Wednesday, members of the board seemed taken back by the number of residents speaking out against the project.
“I’d like to go visit this property myself,” said Supervisor Frank Del Gallo. “I think everybody here should look at it.”
Becker Drive resident Lori Bergami urged the board to carefully contemplate the change. She contested passing off the decision making to the planning commission.
“Stop passing rezones and putting them onto the planning commission’s lap,” she said.
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