The Malta Town Board has unanimously approved a plan to rezone the western stretch of state Route 67 to allow commercial development.
The change from residential to commercial zoning for a two-mile stretch of highway west of Northway Exit 12 was supported by people who live on Route 67 and say their homes have lost value to to high traffic volumes, but opposed by neighbors on rural Raymond Road.
“I want to thank all the board for allowing it to come to light and bringing it to the table, having the courage to take it on knowing the opposition that would arise,” said Tom Hickey, the Route 67 resident who first raised the issue with the Town Board last year.
“We’re just very disappointed,” said Raymond Road resident Patricia Carlton, who fears commercial development will bring more traffic and diminish the quality of life. Her property is behind the new commercial zone on the north.
While opinion has been divided at public meetings on the rezoning, Town Board members have been clear that they support the change, citing the need to increase the town’s tax base. The new zoning will allow offices, restaurants and other uses, including an aquatic center that was under consideration before the rezoning discussion became contentious this summer.
The new zone includes 100 acres of open land owned by the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese, as well as a number of smaller parcels.
The stretch of highway was zoned residential in the 1960s with the concept that it would give the town more latitude to turn down or modify commercial proposals along the highway. Since then, it has become a major route to and from the Northway as western Saratoga County has grown in population, used by about 20,000 vehicles per day.
Residents like Hickey say those traffic levels make it a dangerous place to raise a family, and are looking to sell. But town officials said change won’t happen immediately.
“Just changing zoning isn’t shovels in the ground, but of course there will be in the future,” said town Building and Planning Director Anthony Tozzi.
Councilman John Hartzell said that preserving the vista across a former standard-bred horse farm was a laudable goal, but the town gave it up when it approved the Saratoga Hospital medical complex in 2009. Senior citizen apartments and medical offices are also approved for that site, but aren’t yet built.
He also said the town is receiving a smaller percentage of county sales tax revenue, because other towns are growing their commercial tax bases faster.
“We are not having the kind of balanced growth we want to have in this town. … This is an important step toward achieving that balance,” Hartzell said.
“It’s a travesty that Route 67 has been zoned residential as long as it has,” said Councilman Timothy Dunn. “I think what we’re doing tonight represents a major step forward.”
The new zone requires that there be a no-cut buffer of at least 100 feet between adjoining residential properties and any new commercial development.
Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.
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