A one-man campaign to turn Glenville into a contractor-friendly town could help revive a failed business corridor along Route 5, but residents wonder if it will mean more noise and more eyesores along the rural highway.
Jim Denney thinks it will mean neither. In fact, the former town councilman believes a 4.6-mile stretch of Route 5 could become a vibrant and beautiful commercial corridor if the town rezones it properly. And after several years of unsuccessful calls to town officials, a presentation to the Town Board this spring and a public hearing last week, it looks like the town may do just that.
It all began a few years ago when Denney, owner of a concrete raising and repair company, wanted to open a contractor’s yard in Glenville but found it to be next to impossible.
“Glenville essentially said, through its codes and zoning, that if you’re a contractor, you’ve got to go into an industrial park,” he said. “And that’s just really not an appropriate place to put contractors.”
Industrial parks are better suited for heavy industry and companies with very specific infrastructure needs, said Denney. In addition, local park owners were asking prices that most contractors just aren’t able to afford, he said.
Denney lives on Gower Road, off Route 5 in West Glenville. His 8-year-old business, Concrete Raising of Upstate New York, is based out of an office attached to his house. Several years ago, he outgrew the space and had to pay to store his equipment at a contractor’s yard on Route 5. He thought it would be easy to open his own, but soon learned the existing yards along that corridor had been grandfathered into the current zoning code.
Every time a decent property became available, Denney was thwarted by the town’s zoning code. Contractor’s yards were just not wanted, he found.
“Many years ago, Glenville made a decision that contractors and contractor yards were undesirable and only appropriate in industrially zoned areas of town,” he wrote in a presentation given to the town board in April. “The porn industry gets treated about the same way in Glenville and other municipalities, shuffled off to areas of town that aren’t economically viable to locate a business of that type in.”
After much consideration and debate, the board is now considering revising the town’s zoning code to create a new zoning district known as “highway commercial” along a stretch of Route 5. It would expand the definition of a contractor’s yard, while at the same time imposing a slew of regulations designed to assuage resident concerns.
The new district would allow for a hybrid of commercial and light industrial uses, such as a contractor’s yard, commercial recreation facilities, research and development facilities and more. A contractor’s yard would be allowed only after a site-plan review and be subject to regulations that limit the visibility of equipment and materials on the site.
Three specific areas along Route 5 would be rezoned, opening 71 parcels of land for a variety of land uses. One is a stretch between Rector and Stone Arabia roads currently zoned for professional/residential uses. Another is the northern side of the highway between Stone Arabia Road and a point about one-fifth of a mile west of Bridge Street (Route 103) currently zoned for general business. The last area is a stretch on both sides of the road between Waters and Wolf Hollow roads also currently zoned for general business.
Many of the concerns over the proposal have to do with the negative connotations associated with a contractor’s yard, a piece of land where vehicles, tools and equipment used for construction or by contractors are stored. Residents who spoke out on the proposed zoning district at a public hearing last week were split on the issue. Those in favor said it would help spur growth along what has long been considered a failed business corridor. It would bring jobs to the area, increase the tax base and put vacant, developable land to good use.
Others, however, expressed concerns that contractor’s yards would blight the scenic river valley and bring excessive noise to what is already a noisy stretch of state highway. The four-lane route sees daily passage of more than 14,000 vehicles and sits adjacent to two active rail lines.
One resident who lives in the valley said he was once the project manager for a large contractor’s yard in Troy and often heard from residents who complained of being awakened early by the sound of excavators going to and from the site.
“The traffic is way too much out there already,” said Kelly Casler, who lives on Route 5. “Since the road was repaved, the noise level is ridiculous. I cannot be in my house and have peace and quiet. And what happens in 10 or 20 years when I want to sell my house and I have another eyesore right across the street? That’s not very good for the residents out here.”
Denney urged residents at last week’s public hearing to draw a distinction between the negative perception of contractors and the existence of responsible contractors, like Bellamy Construction and Mariaville Fence Co. Both are contractor’s yards located along the stretch of Route 5 proposed for rezoning and were grandfathered in under nonconforming use variances. Neither is considered loud nor an eyesore.
Residents who spoke at last week’s public hearing agreed both were, in fact, welcome and responsible business owners in the area.
“The reality is this is a failed business corridor,” said Denney, who grew up in Scotia and lives in the area that would be affected by the rezoning. “It’s failing. There are less businesses there now than there were 10 years ago when I moved to Gower Road. It’s failed. Something has to be changed, but it can be changed in a responsible way, and my personal viewpoint is that this zoning amendment can do that. Contractor’s yards like Bellamy Construction are not the exception, they’re the rule.”
Denney has lived in the area all his life. He served as mayor of the village of Scotia in the 1990s and later as a councilman in the town of Glenville. He also sat on the Zoning Board of Appeals about 10 years ago. His experience with zoning issues and his desire to keep his business in town made him the first contractor to approach the town about creating a new zoning district.
“We’re heard from people who have been interested in doing contractor’s yards in areas that aren’t industrial parks,” said town Planner Kevin Corcoran, “but nobody took the step of asking us to rezone land for it. They either just didn’t pursue it, or they looked elsewhere. Not everybody’s willing to do that or wait for that amount of time.”
It was also a values issue for Denney, who said the idea that responsible contractors couldn’t live and work in a 50-square-mile town of 30,000 people was upsetting to him.
“Our town relies on contractors,” he said. “We’re willing to invite these people here to do work for us, but what Glenville was saying was at the end of the day, leave our town and go back to where you came from. I don’t get it. I don’t want to leave town.”
Town officials will discuss the proposed zoning district again at an Aug. 14 work session. The earliest it could go to a vote would be the board’s Aug. 21 meeting.
Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle said he was encouraged by the large turnout at last week’s public hearing and added both sides raised good points. Regardless of whether a new zoning district is approved, he said the Route 5 corridor in West Glenville needs help.
The most-frequented businesses are a Sunoco, Dunkin’ Donuts and Stewart’s Shop — hardly the thriving business corridor town officials envisioned many years ago. Fewer businesses come than go, and much of the corridor is marked by vacant property, auctioned buildings and abandoned gravel pits.
“The one thing we can’t escape right now is the fact that that commercial corridor is dying and we have to do something,” said Koetzle. “As one resident said at the meeting last week, ‘If not this, then what?’ We have to come up with some ideas.”
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