Whispering Pines senior plan revived in Rotterdam

Neighbors continue to be concerned about large complex in residential area
Whispering Pines golf club at 2200 Helderberg Ave. in Rotterdam on Jan. 19, 2017.
Whispering Pines golf club at 2200 Helderberg Ave. in Rotterdam on Jan. 19, 2017.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

ROTTERDAM — Controversial plans for a senior citizen community at the site of the Whispering Pines golf course on Helderberg Avenue have been revived.

The plans submitted to the town call for construction of 496 residential units on the 90-acre property to be built over a four-year period. That is a decrease from the 680 units originally proposed. The number had been reduced to 521 units when the plans were withdrawn during a Town Board public hearing in June.

Town Supervisor Steven Tommasone said he supports the project, which he also supported in its original form.

“There’s a lot of land there, and they’re leaving a tremendous amount of green space, and the golf course remains, although it is smaller,” Tommasone said. “I think it’s a wonderful project. I think our town needs a project like this in an area like that.”

Developer The Lecce Group, which is owned by Lou Lecce of Niskayuna, would not comment on the project Monday.

The revised plans are going through an initial environmental review by the town. The Town Board has called for a full environmental impact statement to be prepared, and an initial public comment period on the potential scope of the environmental studies is open through March 14.

The proposal would change the zoning at the golf course, located between Helderberg Avenue and the south side of the State Thruway, from agricultural-residential to a new “senior living district,” made up of single-family houses, townhouses, independent living senior apartments, and both assisted living and memory care units.

According to documents filed with the town, the plans call for 67 single-family units, 58 townhouses, 119 independent-living apartments, 144 assisted-living units and 108 memory-care units. 

Some recreational uses would be allowed, and the 18-hole golf course would be redesigned as a 9-hole executive course, which would remain open to the public. While there would be a new clubhouse, the early proposal’s plan for an on-site emergent care medical facility have been dropped.

“I think the developer has done a great job of addressing the residents’ concerns,” Tommasone said.

One resident who opposes the plan, Jack Dodson, said neighbors remain concerned because the project will be large and commercial, with an estimated 210 employees and what he estimated will be 675 to 700 residents.

“Talking to the neighbors in detail about the project, I think our largest opposition is the commercial aspect of it,” Dodson said. “Though they have reduced the size a little, it’s still basically the same project.”

He said neighbors would prefer to see a 60- to 100-lot single-family residential subdivision on the land, saying that would fit better with the character of the neighborhood.

Documents filed with the town call for the project to be developed in four phases, potentially over four years.

Traffic impacts are expected to be a major focus of the environmental impact statement. Intersections that have already been studied to determine whether improvements will be needed include Curry Road (state Route 7) and Helderberg Avenue; Curry Road and Altamont Avenue; and Carman Road (state Route 146) and East-West Lydius Street.

In documents filed with the town, Lecce Group traffic engineers VHB Engineering, Surveying and Landscape Architecture of Albany said the overall impact would be minimal, in part because seven houses will be demolished to make room for the new housing, and also because traffic to the Whispering Pines golf course will be reduced.

But Dodson, who is a professional engineer, said the studies done so far don’t appear to have considered the impact of commercial truck traffic, such as food trucks making deliveries to the site.

“It’s basically a small village in there,” he said.

Tommasone said the project would have a positive impact on town revenues, since the internal roads would be private and senior citizens won’t contribute children to the school system.

In documents filed with the town, Lecce estimated the project would pay $416,000 annually in taxes once it is fully built.

“It’s a significant amount,” Tommasone said.

The supervisor said the project would also bring sewer service — paid for by the developer — to a new section of town. The proposed sewer line would run along Carman Road to Hamburg Street, where that street’s first sewer line is in the process of being installed. 

“There have been other businesses that have been restricted in growth because of the lack of sewer service,” Tommasone said.

Dodson, however, sees sewer service as a negative, saying it will promote development in a part of town that still is mostly open land.

Tommasone said he hopes to complete the review process by May, though a public hearing will be required.

Those who want to comment on what should be studied in the environmental impact statement should email [email protected], or write to Town of Rotterdam Attn: Peter Comenzo, 1100 Sunrise Blvd., Rotterdam, NY, 12306, by March 14.

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

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