SCHENECTADY — The city will undertake a study of possible zoning changes along Erie Boulevard, the planning commission determined Wednesday night.
The decision followed a proposal for a project that would see townhouses built along Maxon Road Extension, a development that would require a zoning change to allow residential development there. Also at its meeting, the commission granted approval to projects brought forward by GE Power and Rivers Casino & Resort, each without opposition.
Here are the highlights from the Planning Commission’s meeting:
The Planning Commission will initiate a comprehensive study of Erie Boulevard to determine how to best zone the stretch from Liberty Street to the train tracks on Maxon Road Extension.
The decision was prompted by a few property owners seeking to rezone their land to "waterfront mixed-use," which would expand development options. Commissioners determined it would be more effective to conduct a broader review of zoning along Erie Boulevard.
“My personal opinion is, before we start doing a little bit here and a little bit there, we need to think about: The casino is here, and what does that mean for the area?” said Planning Commission Chairwoman Mary Moore Wallinger.
As a result, the city’s planning and development departments, with the aid of the commission, will lead a comprehensive study of the Erie Boulevard corridor. The goal is to establish what zoning might best fit the area, given the rapid pace of development in recent years, particularly at Mohawk Harbor.
The study will likely take two months and will include stakeholders who occupy homes or businesses along the thoroughfare. The committee performing the study will report back to the Planning Commission, which will then make a recommendation to City Council about a zoning change.
“To do our due diligence, we need to look at the whole area and not pick and choose a parcel here and a parcel there,” Wallinger said.
The commission previously discussed the need for such a study when the Mohawk Harbor project received its approvals, but no survey was conducted.
Pat Popolizio, owner of the Waters Edge Lighthouse just across the river in Glenville, presented the proposal to rezone his land at 1903 Maxon Road Extension. The land is zoned for "light manufacturing and warehouse," but Popolizio wants to change it to waterfront mixed-use, so he can build townhouses.
The agenda initially included a proposal from Ray and Jeff Legere, who own about 10 properties along Erie Boulevard, seeking similar rezoning recommendations for those parcels. That item was pulled prior to the meeting, but commissioners still noted there were multiple property owners hoping to keep up with the changing landscape on Erie Boulevard.
The commission emphasized it has high hopes for Popolizio’s project, but in light of the study, it was tabled, to his frustration.
“The land that we’re looking at has been an eyesore for the last 60 years,” Popolizio said. “You can’t stop progress. I think what we’re trying to do is going to make that whole area absolutely beautiful. It’s going to complement the Mohawk Harbor and the rest of the projects going on in the area.”
The planning commission approved GE Power’s proposal to construct two additions to building 66, a former battery plant, on its Schenectady campus.
The company submitted a plan to build an 8,000-square-foot expansion, and a separate 2,700-square-foot addition. The new spaces would house equipment for part processing, inspection and testing. GE has not disclosed the specific future use of the building or when construction might begin.
A GE spokeswoman said Thursday she had no additional information about the project.
Building 66 previously housed the company’s Durathon battery operation. The firm invested $170 million in the plant, which opened in July 2012 and was touted as the company’s next big enterprise.
The company announced layoffs at the plant in early 2015, and in November 2015 announced it would cease Durathon battery manufacturing at the site.
CASINO HOTEL SIGNAGE
The commission also reviewed an updated proposal for hotel signage at Rivers Casino & Resort.
The builder previously submitted a proposal that included 1,100 square feet of signage. Now that Mohawk Harbor has started to take shape and the casino is open, the requested amount of signage is not necessary, so the casino reduced its proposal to 228 square feet.
The hotel also had not been named when the original signage was proposed. Now that the property has settled on “The Landing,” developers zeroed in on a final concept, which was approved Wednesday night.
The 165-room hotel is scheduled to open in July.