Niskayuna Planning Board ponders rezone for former O.D. Heck property on Balltown


NISKAYUNA — The Niskayuna Planning Board will conduct a public hearing on Jan. 28 to discuss rezoning of a 44-acre parcel of state-owned land on Balltown Road.

The site — 500 Balltown Road — currently is home to Capital District Developmental Disabilities Service Organization-Oswald D. Heck Developmental Center. The space contains several buildings and is also home to the Pooh’s Corner Child Care Center. Wooded land next to Balltown Road is also part of the parcel.

The board is hoping to rezone the property, located between the Raymour & Flanagan furniture store on Balltown and the Niskayuna Square shopping complex anchored by the Hannaford supermarket off Consaul Road, in case the state decides to sell the land.

The land is currently zoned R-2 for residential use — medium density. The board prefers a neighborhood-mixed use designation.

If re-zoning is approved, planners say the parcel would be the first in Niskayuna to be assigned neighborhood-mixed use.

Town Planner Laura Robertson said most of the town is zoned R-1.

“They’re a little bit bigger lots than R-2,” she said. “When you think R-2, think old Niskayuna … they have to have 80 feet of road frontage, and they’re like 9,000 square feet — medium density. R-3 is like high density, so you can sort of put multiple units on a single lot. R-2 you can still put only one single-family home on a lot.”

Robertson said the mixed use zone would allow for both residential and commercial applications. Homes, for example, could be built along with small stores people could walk to. Food markets, banks, medical offices, restaurants and schools would also be allowed.

“The town zeroed in on rezoning the O.D. Heck facility because it is ideally located between the commercial zones and residential zones and could provide a transition between the two uses with a focus on community and pedestrian-scale redevelopment,” Robertson wrote in an agenda statement issued to board members.

“The town has communicated with representatives of the O.D. Heck facility, and they are generally supportive of a rezone,” Robertson added. “The current zoning, R-2, would generally allow for single-family homes or care homes. N-MU (neighborhood-mixed use) allows a much greater flexibility in development.”

“It’s ‘Live, work, play,'” Robertson added.

“We already have mixed use in our zoning ordinance,” said Kevin Walsh, chairman of the Planning Board. “We would be rezoning that area to allow it to be rezoned as mixed use. If the state said tomorrow, ‘We’re going to sell that land, we’ve got a buyer and it’s sold,’ then they would come in under R-2.

“It would be hard to say, ‘We really don’t want R-2; we want mixed use,'” Walsh added. “So, if we get the mixed use in before the state takes any action, the developers know where they’re going, we know where they’re going and everybody’s aligned.”

The land is currently not for sale.

“The state might never take action,” Robertson said. “The point is, you want to be ready if something ever happens.”

The Planning Department will assemble a presentation to educate residents about the residential and mixed use zoning designations. 

The hearing will begin at 7 p.m.

In other business during Monday’s meeting, the board approved the site plan for a dividing wall at 412 Balltown Road — one of the buildings inside Mohawk Commons.

The wall will be used to separate two new businesses that will move into the former Eastern Mountain Sports store.

Spectrum — the internet, TV and phone company — will occupy one side of the space. On the other side off the wall, chefs will prepare food at a B. Good “farm-to-table” restaurant.

B. Good has both U.S. and international locations. In New York, the restaurant is open in Rochester, Brooklyn Heights, Garden City and Nanuet. The company also is serving meals in Canada, Switzerland and Germany.

Spectrum and B. Good will move into a building located close to Balltown Road, directly across the street from Mansion Square businesses Kay Jewelers, Advantage Dental and WellNow Urgent Care.

Jeff Taylor, a White Plains-based architect who represented Mohawk Commons owner DLC Management, said Spectrum will occupy 3,470 square feet of the building. B. Good will get the smaller part of the divide: 2,448 square feet.

The building also houses Panera Bread and GameStop, a gaming supply store.

Taylor said the new tenants will each do interior remodels for their respective spaces.

“They can’t share utilities,” Taylor said. “Gas, water and heating-ventilation-air conditioning will be separated.”

Town Planner Laura Robertson said Spectrum has already secured board approval for its remodeling job.

“The harder one is going to be the restaurant,” she said. “They’re going to have to come back to the Planning Board for site plan approval.”

The board also delayed action on a request for a larger sign at 2317 Balltown Road — the site of the Niskayuna Professional Building.

The sign, which contains the names of medical and dental businesses, is 16 square feet. Richard Olson, of Olson Signs and Graphics, has proposed a 48-square-foot sign.

Town officials said the proposed sign is considerably larger than signs used by other businesses in the area, and he asked Olson to come back to the board with a smaller design.

Contact Daily Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]


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