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What you need to know for 02/23/2017

Schenectady City Council mulls zoning for Mohawk Harbor

Schenectady City Council mulls zoning for Mohawk Harbor

The Schenectady City Council reviewed proposed zoning amendments for Mohawk Harbor Tuesday evening,
Schenectady City Council mulls zoning for Mohawk Harbor
Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy, right, talks with city Councilman Vince Riggi during a committee meeting Monday night in City Hall.
Photographer: Patrick Dodson

The Schenectady City Council reviewed proposed zoning amendments for Mohawk Harbor Tuesday evening, with discussion centered on the Planning Commission’s authority to call for changes in design plans.

During the council’s committee meeting, Councilman Vince Riggi said he would like language added to the ordinance that would reiterate the Planning Commission’s power to approve or deny construction plans, such as building height and signage, put forth by the Galesi Group for the former Alco site.

“I just feel more comfortable with that because sometimes when something is granted, it becomes OK,” Riggi said. “The Planning Commission does have the authority, so I would like to be sure that they realize that they can make some changes if they deem it necessary.”

The commission recommended zoning amendments for the 60-acre brownfield to the City Council last month. Galesi is looking to change the current zoning, C-3 waterfront mixed-use district, to allow for a maximum building height of 110 feet and a total of 19,000 square feet of signage, among other changes.

The $480 million revitalization of the Alco site includes plans for Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor, in partnership with Rush Street Gaming of Chicago, along with apartments, condominiums, town houses and office and retail space.

Council President Peggy King and Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo questioned why the language Riggi requested should be added if the commission already has the authority to guide development. Corporation Council Carl Falotico stressed that the commission has the ability to evaluate the aesthetic visual impact of the project even if the plans satisfy zoning requirements.

“This plan came from the Planning Commission, and they know what their powers are and approved this and recommended it to the council,” Perazzo said. “It just seems unnecessary.”

During the meeting, Jackie Mancini, director of development for the city, said pylon signs could be up to 80 feet tall, according to the State Environmental Quality Review for the site completed by the Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority. That’s 10 feet less than Galesi requested in the zoning application.

Mancini also addressed some concerns expressed by city residents during the commission meeting last month and reassured the council that the site would have public access, although it is not required in the zoning changes, and that an easement for access is not necessary.

“The bike trail has to be public access, and the harbor and retail will be open to the public,” she said.

The council plans to vote on the zoning changes during its meeting Monday. At that meeting, the council will also vote to adopt Metroplex’s amended SEQR findings for the site.

Galesi has yet to seek site plan approval from the Planning Commission for the Mohawk Harbor development, which would require the developer to provide detailed designs of the project.

“The drawings are probably close to accurate, but the project literally gets changed everyday,” Mancini said. “The casino license could get issued as soon as March, so this continues the process moving forward.”

Meanwhile, Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo is looking to extend the time vehicles can park on city streets.

Under current law, cars that are abandoned and not in operable condition can be towed after 48 hours. The same rule applies to legally parked cars.

“Where the interpretation gets a little weird is that any car, even parked legally, could be towed within 48 hours,” Perazzo said. “If I’m parked in front of my house Friday night and don’t move my car until Monday morning, then technically they can tow my car away.”

Perazzo proposed extending the two-day limit to two weeks, which would account for potential vacation time. Although the city isn’t taking much action to enforce the law, Perazzo said it’s only fair to change it.

Other council members, including Ed Kosiur and John Mootooveren, did not want to move forward on the change, however, because the law is not currently enforced.

The law states that a vehicle shall be deemed abandoned and subsequently towed by the Police Department if left unattended “for more than 48 hours, after the parking of such vehicle shall have become illegal, if left on a portion of a highway or public place on which parking is legally permitted.”

“I don’t have a driveway, so if I went on vacation, I would have to rent a garage,” Perazzo said. “I just think this has to be cleared up. What is being enforced now, and should be enforced, is for snowbound cars and inoperable cars.”

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