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Editorial: Public needs to see impact of zoning

Editorial: Public needs to see impact of zoning

Citizens need visual proof of Mohawk Harbor zoning changes

Everyone understands that a major hotel/condo/business development is going to create some buildings that will block the view of whatever is behind them.

And everyone understands that casinos come with bright lights.

And everyone understands that you don't propose a public walking trail on your property along the river unless you intend to let the public use the trail and have access to the waterfront.

But even though they seem fully on board with the proposed Mohawk Harbor development project, Schenectady residents and city council members have legitimate reason to be hesitant about the proposed zoning changes sought for it.

Call it a "belief issue."

The first belief issue is in what the project will ultimately look like. Proposed zoning changes for the site are significant, such as allowing for 11-story buildings and for enormous, brightly lit signs.

The existing architectural renderings for the project show buildings that don't appear nearly that tall. They also don't show how elaborate the lighting for the casino might be. It's difficult for the normal person to envision what 90-foot-tall "multi-use pylon signs" will look like.

What we have here is a chicken-or-the-egg scenario. The developer might be hesitant to invest in specific plans for the project without having the zoning in place. And the city might be hesitant to approve zoning changes without seeing exactly how those changes will materialize on the actual site.

With the walking trail and river access, citizens have a different type of belief issue, in that they need assurances that the developer does indeed intend to construct a walking-biking trail through the property and that the property will be accessible to the public.

The city could try to work out an easement. But that could involve complex legal issues such as city liability. Or the developer could put its intentions in writing to guarantee that the bike-trail/riverfront portion of the property will always be accessible to the public. Promises are nice. Contracts are binding.

Surely, the developer must have some idea of how it plans to lay out the buildings, signage and public access of the site. Otherwise, it wouldn't be asking for these specific zoning changes.

Just as it came up with drawings for the original proposal, it would be worth it for the developer to prepare sample renderings to show the public the potential options for the property that include the taller buildings, signs and river access.

This project is going to be here for a long time. It's better to have the public go into it with their eyes wide open now, than blindly go along with zoning changes that they'll be dissatisfied with later.

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