BALLSTON — Citing a growing need to care for pets as adoptions have increased during the pandemic, the owner of Cornerstone Veterinary Hospital of Clifton Park approached officials with an urgent request to build a vet specialty office on Route 50.
In making that request, Dr. Alan Knott asked Ballston officials to make an exception to the town’s moratorium on development and allow him to build the vet office at 841-843 Route 50, which is a state highway.
Ballston’s Town Board held a public hearing on the matter Tuesday, and has up to 30 days to consider and act on the proposal. No private citizen spoke for or against the proposal during the virtual meeting.
Knott co-owns the Clifton Park business with his wife, Dr. Lisa Knott. They reside in Burnt Hills.
The Knotts are seeking a zoning variance to build a 4,999-square-foot office with a driveway and 29 parking spaces.
The specific square footage request is important, because the town has a moratorium on development projects of 5,000 square feet or larger.
The moratorium, which went into effect in 2020 and ends in April, addresses Ballston’s “significant concerns about potential impacts of certain types of development in town.” The moratorium gives the town time to update its 15-year comprehensive plan and revise town zoning and subdivision regulations.
But Knott and his lawyer are at odds with the town about their respective interpretations of the moratorium. The applicant’s lawyer, Rob Stout, said he does not believe the project needs a zoning variance. That’s because it’s 1 square foot shy of the moratorium threshold.
However, Town Supervisor Eric Connolly said the town’s attorney says the moratorium applies to projects that aim to disturb 5,000 square feet, which this project would.
“I think we have a difference of opinion as to the scope of the moratorium and whether or not the 5,000-square-foot threshold includes the entire disturbance,” said Stout, adding he was setting that issue aside for the purposes of demonstrating to the board that the project met the standard for the variance because the project suffers from practical difficulties or extraordinary hardships.
Stout said Knott was in negotiations to bring in veterinary specialists, surgeons and radiologists, but there’s currently a tight market for them. There’s up to a six-month waiting period to bring those types of professionals onboard, and prolonged coverage by the town’s moratorium would hinder the Knotts’ negotiations with them, the lawyer said.
Also, the Knotts specifically targeted a project of 4,999 square feet to meet the town rule. It otherwise would have proposed a larger project, Stout said.
The couple’s nearly 8,000-square-foot practice in Clifton Park boards and grooms animals, whereas the proposed Ballston facility would not provide those services.
It’s also incumbent on the applicant to demonstrate that the variance will not adversely affect the health, safety or welfare of town residents, or conflict with the purposes of the moratorium. Stout said the proposal would not harm any of those.
Another consultant on behalf of the applicant, Scott Lansing of Lansing Engineering, addressed town officials’ stated concerns about potential impact to traffic.
Lansing said impact would be minimal because the facility estimates 108 trips per day, while Route 50’s average annual daily traffic volume is approximately 13,200 trips.
“We’re less than 1% of traffic generation from the site, Lansing said.
Knott said it had always been a dream of his wife’s to establish veterinary care in her hometown.
Stout said there’s an acute need for specialty veterinary services in the area.
“There’s been a huge increase in the need for these types of services given the increase in pet ownership that was only exacerbated during the pandemic,” he said.
Knott added that even prior to the pandemic, the need for veterinary services increased almost tenfold.
In addition to increased pet adoptions, “people are just taking better care of their pets too,” Knott said.
Knott said he had already spent about $50,000 on acquiring the property and legal and consulting fees.
Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.