Niskayuna officials are taking the first steps to prepare for a future without the O.D. Heck Developmental Center, moving to rezone the site for future reuse.
Town officials said the move is being done ahead of the scheduled closure in 2015 of the state-run center for developmentally disabled people. There’s no developer waiting in the wings, they said, but they’re trying to plan ahead.
“We want to get it zoned so that if and when O.D. Heck closes that we can work with developers and have the right type of zoning,” town Supervisor Joe Landry said Friday.
The proposal calls for changing the nearly 44-acre property’s zoning from medium-density residential to neighborhood commercial. The new zoning would allow for mixed business and residential use.
State officials announced last summer that the O.D. Heck Developmental Center would close in March 2015. The facility was one of four marked for shutdown as part of an ongoing effort by the state to reduce the number of people living in state-run institutional settings.
The 300 employees at O.D. Heck are to be offered opportunities for reassignment elsewhere.
The campus at the corner of Balltown and Consaul roads consists of a dozen 1970s-era buildings surrounded by green space. Properties to the north and south of the site have undergone development or improvements in the years since.
There’s now a Hannaford supermarket across Consaul Road to the north. The property to the south has been redeveloped into the Mohawk Commons shopping center.
The O.D. Heck land alone was valued at $4.5 million in 2012, according to county records. The entire property was valued at $66.5 million, though it’s wholly exempt from taxes now.
Town Board member Denise Murphy McGraw said she’d like to see the green space preserved as much as possible.
But she said the rezoning will help ensure that the property on the important Balltown Road thoroughfare will be reused. “We’re not sure what the future is going to bring, but we don’t want to worry about [rezoning] in the 11th hour,” she said.
What the state will do with the property once it closes the center is also not clear.
But the rezoning will prepare for whatever happens, Landry said. “We’re trying to provide the most options,” he said.