NISKAYUNA — The Niskayuna Planning Board has recommended that the town board reject a special use permit for the Mohawk Golf Club to develop a new subdivision on 14 acres of club property.
During the planning board’s Monday evening meeting, the council voted 5-2 to recommend that the town board reject the club’s application, with Planning Board Chairman Kevin Walsh and Planning Board Member Leslie Gold voting against the measure.
The planning board recommendation follows similar guidance from the Niskayuna Conservation Advisory Council (CAC), which issued a positive declaration on State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) for the application, with the committee stating it had environmental concerns with the proposed subdivision project.
Niskayuna Senior Town Planner Laura Robertson said on Tuesday that the town board will now take up the project application.
“It does still go to the town board,” she said. “They received recommendations from two boards, so they have to look at the CAC’s recommendation on SEQR and they have to look at the planning board’s recommendation on the special use permit. Based on those discussions, they’ll develop the resolution that will come forward in the next meeting [on June 13]. There will be no action, but it’ll be a determination on SEQR or calling for a public hearing.”
The golf club is proposing a 22-lot average density development that would include 10 single-family detached homes and 12 townhomes.
The planning board’s recommendation noted that the board was concerned with the proposed development’s impact on the character of the land and delineated concerns with the project’s fit with the town’s comprehensive plan.
“While the Planning Board recognizes the right of the developer to pursue subdivision application, a poorly planned average density development application that is not harmonious with the surrounding residential neighborhoods, that does not capitalize on open space opportunities, and potentially shifts land use pattern from open space/recreation to clustered home development, is contrary to the town’s comprehensive plan,” the planning board wrote in its findings.
The planning board’s recommendation is not binding, with the town board set to make the final determination on SEQR and the special use permit application.
“I’m going to present all of the options that they have now that all of the other boards have made their recommendations, and they can choose what they think is the most appropriate for their board,” Robertson said.
Town Supervisor Jaime Puccioni said the town board will weigh all of the guidance it receives equally in making a final determination on the project.
“The town board takes all of the information into consideration,” she said on Wednesday. “The recommendation from the planning board and the recommendation from the conservation advisory committee and then we’d take a vote on the special use permit.”
Walsh said he had concerns about future developments on club land if the current proposal is rejected.
“We’re not giving direction to the applicant on what the future holds, but I’m concerned about what the future holds,” he said during the Monday meeting. “I think the average density development is more suitable than what could be developed there. I think the thing that we have to realize here is that this is preliminary. This is a work in progress. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us if the town board were to send this back to us with an approval. We’ve still got a lot of engineering to do and there’s a lot of things that could change.”
Walsh noted during the Monday meeting that the proposed townhouses that would be included in the project could provide housing diversity options to the community.
“I think there’s a long way to go with this if the town board allows us to go forward with this, and that’s why I’m voting no at this point in time,” he said.
Planning Board Member Genghis Khan replied that he believed that the planning board was at the part of its process where he felt comfortable recommending that the town board reject the special use permit application.
“I think that’s the only matter in front of us right now,” Khan said. “All of the other subsequent process steps are well-understood and well-defined based on that outcome. But based on the engineering work that was done by the TDE (Town Designated Engineer), by the applicant and the assessments and discussions by the board, the only process is making the recommendation.”
Walsh noted that the town board has multiple options following the planning board’s recommendation.
“They could take the recommendation from this board and it doesn’t go forward as an average density development, they can approve it or they can approve with conditions like we’ve seen in the past with Kelts Farm (housing development),” he explained during the Monday meeting. “If the town board so chooses, this could come back to us with whatever you could imagine — a different access point, types of homes, number of housing, whatever.”
Bill Sweet, project consultant who is representing club owner Michael Rutherford in the application process, said on Wednesday that he hopes the town board will be receptive to the application despite the planning board’s recommendation.
“We’ve got so much invested in time, dollars and engineering and we’ve addressed most of the concerns that the TDE had,” Sweet said on Wednesday. “Given the amount of investment that we’ve got in this in hours and money, we want to get in front of the town board and make a nice presentation for them and see if we can persuade them to see the benefits of the special use permit and following the guidelines of the average density development.”
Sweet said he was disappointed in the planning board’s ruling on Monday evening.
“After 10 months of meetings and a lot of dialogue and a lot of compromise and engineering modifications and revisions, you would think after that length of time that you were moving toward an acceptable resolution and solution to move things forward,” he said. “I was a little bit surprised they took that tact.”
Town Board Member Jason Moskowitz said the board will study the project application in advance of the board’s next agenda meeting on June 13 and town board meeting on June 27.
“I cannot speak for the other board members, but personally, my decision will be based on several factors, including several discussions I’ve had with residents in that area, the planning board’s recommendation, input from residents during the upcoming public hearing, and the standards used for granting special use permits including my commitment to safeguarding public health, as well preserving the general character of the neighborhood and the environment,” he said on Wednesday. “One of my most important jobs as councilman is to listen to everyone’s concerns on both sides. I have enjoyed doing that throughout this process and look forward to the upcoming public hearing.”
Contact Ted Remsnyder at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @TedRemsnyder.