Schenectady County

Neighbors fighting proposed Rotterdam apartment complex

An apartment complex proposed for vacant land on Peter Road faces opposition from hundreds of neighb
John Pikor of Rotterdam sets out a sign opposing a 16-unit apartment complex on Peter Road near High Bridge Road on Thursday, April 23, 2015.
John Pikor of Rotterdam sets out a sign opposing a 16-unit apartment complex on Peter Road near High Bridge Road on Thursday, April 23, 2015.

An apartment complex proposed for vacant land on Peter Road faces opposition from hundreds of neighbors in the residential area of Highbridge Road.

John Pikor of Angelina Road presented 172 signatures against the project at Wednesday’s Town Board meeting, in addition to 172 signatures submitted to the town through He said residents are concerned about the potential for increased traffic, flooding and noise in the quiet neighborhood.

“By my next appearance before the board, our group will have assembled over 500 signatures in opposition, so imagine if just half of those come to the next two Town Board meetings. What an experience that will be,” said Pikor, who has lived with his wife in the neighborhood of single-family homes since 1972.

The project, proposed by Charlew Builders of Albany under the name Peter Road LLC, requires a zoning variance to move forward in the R-1 zone, which only allows for single-family homes. The developer purchased the property in August for $215,000 and demolished a rundown home there in January.

The developer wants to build two 8-unit apartment buildings on the 21⁄2-acre site. The original proposal called for four buildings and 32 total apartments, but that request was denied by the town’s Planning Commission in August.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Pikor asked Democratic town Supervisor Harry Buffardi why Republican board members Joe Villano and Rick Larmour “have done a 180 from supporting the Highbridge residents to advocating for Peter Road LLC.” He read a Nov. 3 email from Villano, addressed to another Highbridge resident, in which Villano said, “Rick and I will never vote for this project, so it is dead.” Then he read another email from Villano dated Dec. 23 that read “Rick and I are currently considering a scaled down development of the property” and “I’m trying to broker a deal right now that will allow utilization of the property in a way that I believe will provide minimal impact to the neighbors.”

“What is this all about?” Pikor asked. “Mr. Villano does not live in our neighborhood, nor would he feel any impact of a potential wrong decision.”

Larmour later came to Villano’s defense.

“We did say we were not going to approve it — as it stood — and we still are not sure what we are going to do,” he said.

As Larmour continued, saying the town needed to find a “middle road” to appease neighbors and the developers, Pikor interjected from his seat in the meeting room, “We owe them no favors.”

Villano also defended himself, saying the project is much smaller now and has been modified to include landscaping buffers and green space. And he said he has a 10-unit apartment building behind his single-family Rotterdam home.

“I know exactly what happens in an apartment building, and I have to tell you, from my own personal experiences, there’s been no effect on my quality of life,” he said.

Before the meeting, Pikor said his neighbors’ biggest concern is the potential for increased traffic on Peter Road near its busy intersection with Highbridge Road, which has no traffic light. That concern remains strong, he told board members, even with the reduced size of the project.

“The Highridge resident opposition group platform consists of three words, and they are ‘No Zoning Change,’ ” he said, adding such a zone change would represent spot zoning and set the wrong precedent for future builders.

Mitchell Seid, facilities manager for Time Warner Cable’s Albany and Hudson Valley markets, also voiced concerns Wednesday night. The apartment complex, as planned, could hook up to a sewer line previously installed by the town to serve the cable company’s location at 1021 Highbridge Road, less than a half-mile from the proposed apartments.

“Unless the contractor or the town of Rotterdam can supply Time Warner Cable with the appropriate study and/or documentation that this project and the tapping of this sewer line will have no detrimental effect to our facility in any way, we will oppose this project and take appropriate action to do so,” he said, adding that the company would have no issues with the project if the developer installed a separate sewer line to serve the apartments.

Buffardi said the project will not go forward without a feasible sewer plan.

“If that’s in jeopardy, this project’s not passing,” he said.

Board members then voted unanimously to refer the zone change to the Planning Commission, but in doing so called the move a formality.

Buffardi noted “planning was not keen on this project in the past.” Even if the commission recommended a zoning change, it would still require a unanimous vote of the Town Board, which is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.

“This is all part of the process, and by no means is it a done deal,” Buffardi said.

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