The developer of a major mixed-use project planned on Route 9 contends it should be exempt from anticipated changes in Malta’s downtown zoning.
At least some aspects of the proposed Malta Crossings development wouldn’t comply with the new zoning.
ACO Property Advisors of Saratoga Springs has already spent $500,000 on application-related studies, according to its lawyer. It has gotten some needed town approvals, but not final site plan approval.
The 16-acre project would be located on the east side of Route 9, about a half-mile north of Route 67. It would include a 102-unit hotel, 54 luxury apartments, 25 single-family residences, and commercial buildings, including spots for a restaurant or bank, and a day care center.
The planned five-story hotel, in particular, wouldn’t be allowed under downtown zoning changes the Town Board appears poised to approve. At issue is whether the developer can be required to comply with the new zoning law, since construction hasn’t started.
The zoning changes could be adopted as soon as Feb. 4.
Malta Crossings was first proposed in 2007. It complies with the downtown zoning in place then and now, which allows buildings up to 54 feet high, and high-density mixed use development.
Because it complied with zoning, Malta Crossings went through town planning reviews without going before the Town Board for special zoning, as many commercial projects do.
Malta Crossings has gotten special permit and subdivision approvals from the town Planning Board. Final site plan approvals, which are needed before construction starts, will be considered once the project has specific tenants.
“When we started this process, the law allowed us to do what we did,” said Michael Toohey of Saratoga Springs, the attorney for ACO Property Advisors. “All we are asking is that you not change the law to our obvious detriment.”
Alan Oppenheim, one of the principals in ACO Property Advisors, said the project has been delayed for the past year while getting state and county approval for a revised sewer design that will also bring public sewers to the neighboring Cramer Hills development, which has a history of septic tank problems.
On Thursday, Toohey told the Town Board the developer is willing to commit to starting construction within five years. Oppenheim said he would “absolutely” be willing to consider building design changes that are also part of the new zoning law.
The Town Board hasn’t taken a position, but Town Supervisor Paul Sausville said if construction hasn’t started, the new zoning should apply.
“Build it. Get your permit tomorrow and build it, that’s my answer to that,” he said in a brief angry exchange with Toohey.
The proposed zoning changes would limit building heights to two or three stories in the area where Malta Crossings is proposed, at the northern edge of the downtown. It would also put new emphasis on building design, as part of what’s called a form-based code.
Council John Hartzell said he’s “cautiously optimistic” a compromise can be reached giving Malta Crossings five years to get started while making it subject to design standards.
“This would allow the developer a fair chance to proceed with the project that has received prior town approvals, but which forces compliance with some of the important requirements of the proposed form-based code, such as design standards,” Hartzell said.
The town anticipates continued downtown commercial development because of its proximity to the Luther Forest Technology Campus and the GlobalFoundries computer chip plant.
On its website, ACO Property Advisors is promoting the project as located within a mile of GlobalFoundries.