The city Planning Commission on Wednesday approved the site plan for the Rivers Casino, but some commissioners plan to review requested changes to the pylon sign, and exclude the public as they do so.
At Wednesday’s meeting, some of the commissioners requested changes in the color and material of the 80-foot-tall pylon sign. The commission decided to approve the site plan but also to have a four-member subcommittee meet again to review the sign.
City Planner Christine Primiano said after Wednesday’s meeting that the subcommittee meeting would not be open to the public.
But on Thursday, city Corporation Counsel Carl Falotico said he doesn’t believe the four commissioners would actually meet. Instead, they would receive an updated rendering of the pylon sign with their requested changes for review.
“They passed the project assuming those changes would be made,” Falotico said. “They just want to see what it will look like. So Rush [Street Gaming] will prepare that and get that to them. I was told they won’t be meeting and no formal action will be taken.”
An updated rendering of the pylon sign would be available to the public once it’s formally submitted to the city, Falotico said.
Holding a closed subcommittee meeting would be a violation of the state’s Open Meetings Law, according to the state’s top public information expert.
The Planning Commission “is obliged to give notice and obliged to conduct business open to the public unless there is a basis to enter into executive session,” said Bob Freeman, director of the state’s Committee on Open Government.
The Planning Commission is made up of nine members — Sharran Coppola (chair), Matthew Cuevas (vice chair), Brad Lewis, Jason Bogdanowicz-Wilson, Mary Moore Wallinger, Christopher Rush, Thomas Carey, Julia Stone and Sara Bonacquist.
The commission members are appointed by the mayor and approved by the City Council.
“The committee has four members so it’s a quorum of three, not a majority of its total membership,” Freeman said of the Planning Commission’s subcommittee. “The Open Meetings Law includes subcommittees, committees and other subgroups of public bodies.”
Discussion during the two-hour meeting Wednesday centered on the massive pylon sign, which measures 80 feet tall and 38 feet wide. A couple of Schenectady residents expressed their opposition to the sign at the meeting.
The colors and materials of the sign have changed from brick to metal, like the casino building itself. The sign will include a 32-foot digital display. The sign will have backlighting and be lit 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The sign will be built erected on Front Street, where Automated Dynamics currently stands. That company’s building will be demolished to make way for the development, as it sits at what will be the entrance of the Mohawk Harbor site.
The casino site plan was given the green light with one no vote from Carey. Carey said he believes the sign is too big compared with other signs in the city.
Under zoning approved by the City Council, the pylon sign for the casino can be up to 80 feet tall. Total signage permitted for the casino is 19,000 square feet. Rush Street is planning to have 13,700 square feet of signage.
Designer Mike Levin, principal with Development Management Associates, said the 80-foot-tall sign is needed due to poor visibility from Erie Boulevard.
He added that STS Steel, the only company left on the old Alco site, blocks the view of drivers traveling into the city from Freemans Bridge Road in Glenville. Glenn Tabolt, president of STS, said his building is 50 feet tall.
Last month, Planning Commission members met with architects and developers of the casino project in closed meetings ahead of its regularly scheduled public meeting. Four commissioners met with the casino’s development team one day and another four the next day — avoiding a five-member quorum and making those meetings not subject to the state’s Open Meetings Law.
Primiano said the discussions at those two meetings focused on Rush Street’s casino design change from modern to traditional. The casino design approved Wednesday was back to modern, but different from the first renderings released.
Freeman said the meetings, although not against the law, demonstrated a lack of transparency.
Coppola opened Wednesday’s meeting by addressing The Daily Gazette’s open meetings coverage involving the casino. She said those closed meetings were for planning purposes and that no decisions were made.