Niskayuna Town Board sets date for memorial special use permit vote

An updated rendering of the proposed Niskayuna Holocaust Memorial.
An updated rendering of the proposed Niskayuna Holocaust Memorial.

Categories: News, Saratoga County, Schenectady County

Members of the Niskayuna Town Board finally will get their chance to speak about the Holocaust Memorial proposed for Troy-Schenectady Road.

The board, during Tuesday’s night’s agenda session, placed a resolution on the June 20 meeting agenda calling for a vote on a special use permit sought by Capital District Jewish Holocaust Memorial LLC.

The group, led by Latham orthodontist Dr. Michael Lozman, hopes to build a memorial on a two-acre plot of land adjacent to Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery. Dozens of people offered opinions about the redesigned memorial — most of them in favor — during two public forums held last month.

Because the space is zoned for residential use, the Town Board must grant a special use permit before any work begins.

Lozman first proposed construction of the memorial, on land donated by the Roman Catholic cemetery, in November 2017. In March 2018, the project was approved by the town’s Planning Board.

The memorial became controversial, and about 120 people packed the board room at Niskayuna Town Hall in April 2018 and spoke for and against the idea during a public hearing.

The Town Board scheduled a vote on the special use permit four times in 2018 and postponed the vote each time at the applicant’s request.

Supervisor Yasmine Syed said she expects a large turnout at the Thursday, June 20 meeting, which has been moved up from the usual fourth Tuesday of the month, June 25 — Primary Day. Like all regular Town Board meetings, people will have the chance to speak during the privilege of the floor session.

“I think a lot of people are going to be interested in seeing how we vote,” Syed said. “I’m still hearing from people. I just a phone call today from someone expressing their concern over location and traffic issues.

“It’s not going to be an easy decision we all come by,” Syed added. “I don’t know what point in the decision-making process everyone is in. I’m still listening actively to our residents and we’ll see what happens on the 20th.”

If the special use permit is granted, said town Planner Laura Robertson, memorial principals will have to return to the town Planning Board.

“If they get their special use permit, then they come back to the Planning Board for final site plan approval,” Robertson said.

Other matters, she said, must still be discussed.

“There’s still some traffic studies and stuff that have to go back and forth, so traffic, curb cut, storm water, all that stuff would come back to the Planning Board for final site plan review,” Robertson said. “There are still details that have to be worked out.”

The June 20 meeting will begin at 7 p.m.

In other business — during a special meeting that preceded the agenda meeting — the board authorized Syed to enter a revised contract with VIM Recyclers LP for the treatment and disposal of liquid organic waste from the Pepsi bottling Group in Latham at the town’s wastewater treatment plant on Whitmyer Drive.

Treatment of liquid waste from outside sources has become a controversial topic in the town, with residents of Whitmyer expressing fear they will see a constant procession of trucks rolling down their street — and back up again after disposing their loads.

The VIM contract has been altered because, town officials have learned, trucks do not come with 5,000-gallon tanks. The deliveries of soda waste will have to be made using trucks equipped with a more standard 6,200-gallon tank.

“I’m not happy about that change,” Syed said. “It’s something we asked ESG (Energy Systems Group), they’re our go-between, that’s why we pay a service fee to them, they’re the ones that source all our organic waste contracts. So believing they’re the experts in the subject matter … we’re relying on them, we’re paying them a lot of money to them to give us the correct information.

“They were the ones who put together a frequently-asked questions,” syed added. “One of the main questions was, ‘How big are these trucks going to be?’  and they came up with between zero and 5,000-gallon trucks. I don’t know where the 5,000 came from.”

The number has caused other problems.

“Pepsi was going to go elsewhere,” Syed said. “If we didn’t entertain this resolution today and enact this modification, they were going to go to another facility. That would have further delayed our ability to accrue revenue.”

The pilot program was expected to bring the town $60,000 in revenue this year.

Amy Howansky, a Whitmyer Drive resident who has been among the most vocal of the wastewater project critics, said she believes the change represents a “bait and switch” play.

“We were told the trucks would be no bigger than 5,000 gallons, and now the trucks are going to hold 6,200 gallons,” she said. “There’s going to be increase in weight on the road which already can’t support that type of truck coming to the facility.”

Howansky is still expecting 10 to 12 trucks every day, once the pilot program has ended.

“Now bigger trucks,” she said. “If they can get more waste, and earn more money, why would they say no to that?”

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


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