Residents packed Town Hall Monday night to dispute claims that a developer’s proposal to build 140 homes would have no significant impact on traffic, the environment and the quality of life in their neighborhoods.
The town Planning and Zoning Commission was scheduled to grant or deny preliminary approval for the subdivision Monday night, but ongoing concerns from residents prompted it to table that decision.
Instead, as lead agency for the state Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process, the commission voted unanimously to issue a negative declaration for the project, opening the proposal to a public hearing that immediately followed and allowing state and federal permit reviews to begin.
The proposed subdivision by Amedore Homes has been controversial from the start, mostly raising concerns from residents of the adjacent Glen Oaks and Indian Hills housing developments. The subdivision would be built on a 214-acre parcel of land between these two neighborhoods. The site is located between Swaggertown and Spring roads. Town officials say the parcel, which consists of forest and wetlands and is zoned suburban residential, was always destined for a housing development.
“That was always the plan,” said town Supervisor Chris Koetzle. “Indian Hills and Glen Oaks were both built 40 years ago and it was always in the town’s plan to continue those two developments to this parcel.”
The proposal calls for single-family homes that would occupy about one-third of the site. The rest, about 67 percent or 143 acres, would be permanently preserved through a deed restriction. The lands to be preserved are federal and state-regulated wetlands identified by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.
Amedore Homes would pay to connect the town’s water and sewer service to the development. They are proposing a stormwater management system that complies with the DEC’s stormwater performance standards and practices, and encompasses its own special district so that residents outside the district aren’t taxed for maintenance of the system.
Chairman Michael Carr said the commission relied on a number of studies, engineering reports and input from state and federal agencies, to inform its SEQR determination. They took into account potential effects on wetlands, roadways, stormwater management, groundwater, surface water runoff, traffic, noise, solid waste disposal, drainage, vegetation, wildlife, community character, historic and archaeological issues, visual appearance, water supply, odors, sanitary sewer service, electric and natural gas service and community services.
“In all of the aforementioned areas, . . . it is clear that the proposed project would not have a significant impact,” read Carr from a 12-page SEQR determination.
He emphasized that it will always be possible to go back and rescind the SEQR determination should environmental concerns crop up.
A standing-room-only crowd scoffed or laughed in disbelief as Carr listed areas the commission determined would not be affected by the development.
Brett Larson, a neighboring landowner who lives on Spring Road, respectfully disagreed with the commission’s findings. Citing the nearby Maura Lane development, he shared personal experiences of the groundwater at his property rising with every house that was built as part of that project. Traffic increased, as well, he said.
“Just because somebody had the vision to develop this land years ago doesn’t mean it still has to happen,” he said, adding that he moved from Latham to Glenville for the peaceful aspects of his neighborhood.
Town officials have acknowledged that several areas of town experience drainage and minor flooding issues, including the Indian Hills neighborhood.
An attorney from Whiteman Osterman & Hanna, an Albany firm representing Amedore Homes, said the proposed development will actually help with those issues by minimizing the amount of porous ground for rainwater to seep into, and therefore lowering the groundwater table.
Amedore Homes has agreed to hold a second public hearing. This has yet to be scheduled, but will likely occur sometime next month.