Controversial Alplaus housing project withdrawn

Town leaders still hope for cleanup of contaminated site
An anti-development sign appears on an Alplaus Avenue yard opposite Maritime Drive in Alplaus.
An anti-development sign appears on an Alplaus Avenue yard opposite Maritime Drive in Alplaus.

GLENVILLE — A controversial plan for a 228-unit housing development on the Mohawk River near the hamlet of Alplaus has been withdrawn by the developer.

“After considerable discussion with representatives of Prime Properties, the proposed developers of the Mohawk Avenue property in Alplaus, it was mutually decided that the application for the proposed Planned Use Development be withdrawn,” Glenville Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle said in a prepared statement.

The plans first proposed by Prime Properties of Cohoes in 2016 drew significant opposition from residents of Alplaus, who feared the influx of modern multi-family housing and increased traffic would have a major negative impact on their quiet, historic neighborhood. Anti-development signs sprouted in the village last spring and have remained.

“The Alplaus Residents’ Association is pleased that the developer has chosen to withdraw the application for the 228-unit project on the banks of the Mohawk River,” said Michael McHale, president of the residents’ association.

The project was planned for an 84-acre site that includes contaminated former industrial land. Originally, it was to consist of 390 units, but during early discussions with town officials — who would have needed to approve a zoning change for the project — the scope was reduced to 228 units, featuring a combination of single-family and multi-family housing.

Under pressure from residents, the Town Board in July voted to require Prime Properties to develop a full environmental impact statement on the project, a process that would have taken months and would have been on the developer’s dime. The study process, however, never really got started. Late Tuesday, Prime Properties notified the town the application was being withdrawn.

“There were many factors that led to this decision, particularly disagreements between the town and the developer regarding the project’s density and a request for the town’s support for a [payment in lieu of taxes agreement],” Koetzle said.

Payment in lieu of taxes agreements, or PILOTs, typically are used to encourage development by allowing a developer to pay a lower tax bill than if the project being proposed were assessed at its full market value. Koetzle said the Town Board was going to hold firm that it wouldn’t support a PILOT for the creation of multi-family housing.

“I am proud of the work that this Town Board did to ensure a fair process for the applicant while also striving to protect the hamlet,” Koetzle said. “Throughout the process, the Town Board listened to the concerns of the community and always tried to find solutions.”

Withdrawal of the application still leaves slightly less than half the proposed development site as a brownfield, due to contamination from past industrial activity there. Prime Properties was going to clean up the contamination but said it needed a large housing development to justify the cleanup cost. Prime was also planning to seek state brownfield cleanup tax credits.

The site, once used by General Electric and the U.S. Navy for classified industrial testing, contains PCBs and heavy metals. Because of the development application, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has been conducting a study of the site and its cleanup requirements.

Dean DeVito, the partner in Prime Properties who was pursuing the project, did not respond to a request for comment.

“I just think it was a business decision for them,” Koetzle said. “It would have been a lot of money for them to spend and still have uncertainty about what the outcome would be.”

Koetzle said the town’s goal is still to see the contamination cleaned up and the property reused, and he hopes to have the support of residents, with whom he met Tuesday night to relay the news.

“The approach going forward cannot be, ‘Not in my back yard,'” he said. “It has to be, ‘How can we collectively move forward as a community to find what’s best for the community?'” Koetlze said.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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