Schenectady County

Hurdle to Rotterdam development may be rescinded shortly

Critical impact legislation passed in the aftermath of a controversial Walmart Supercenter proposal

Critical impact legislation passed in the aftermath of a controversial Walmart Supercenter proposal could soon be coming off the books in Rotterdam without ever being utilized.

Last week, town officials agreed to set a public hearing during their August meeting to review the law enacted and passed by the Town Board’s Republican majority in 2006. The law essentially gave the board veto capabilities over large developments approved by the Planning Commission.

Under the legislation, developers building a project larger than 100,000 square feet would be required to obtain a critical impact permit through the Town Board. The law also included any building higher than 60 feet, any development with more than 75 dwellings, any business including more than 50 employees and any project with a seating capacity of more than 200 persons.

Before granting a permit, the Town Board could require studies on items not considered by the commission. This could include everything from the project’s effect on the town economy to its impact on air and water quality.

But the law has never been used since being approved nearly five years ago, and some now fear the legislation is deterring developers from considering Rotterdam for large projects.

Andy Brick, the former town attorney, said the large developers he’s represented would balk at such a law.

For instance, he said the developer looking to convert the old Kmart building in Glenville into a Target location would never have proposed the plan had they come across a similar type of critical impact legislation.

“If they stumbled upon this in the code, they’re not going to come to this town,” he said last week.

Residents urged board members to exercise their rights under the law in 2009, when Price Chopper proposed relocating Dunnsville Road to construct a 408,000-square-foot warehouse near their complex of Duanesburg Road. But the board never asked the company to seek the critical impact permit and the project was ultimately approved.

Commission Chairman Tom Yuille said the law has never been popular with that group, which advised against the Town Board ratifying the measure when it was initially conceived. He said the law seems even more pointless now, considering that significant projects have been passed since it was enacted without a permit ever being issued.

“It’s never been used, but it’s still on the books,” he said.

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