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What you need to know for 12/12/2017

Niskayuna Planning Board tables zoning recommendation

Niskayuna Planning Board tables zoning recommendation

Town Board will hold public hearing Oct. 12
Niskayuna Planning Board tables zoning recommendation
A drawing of Building B in the proposed development in Niskayuna.
Photographer: Via Balzer and Tuck

NISKAYUNA — Public opposition to a proposed mixed-use and multi-family development at Van Antwerp and Balltown roads has not abated.

The Niskayuna Planning Board was scheduled to make a recommendation Monday to the Town Board regarding a zoning change request by developer BR Niskayuna Holdings. But the Planning Board voted to table the resolution in order to take more time to gather and evaluate information and continue discussions with the developer.

To proceed with the development, BR Niskayuna Holdings needs the parcel to be zoned partially neighborhood commercial — like the adjacent CVS and former town hall on the west side of Balltown Road — and R3, high density residential — like the neighboring Van Antwerp apartments.

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The Town Board has final say on zoning changes and has scheduled a public hearing on the project for 7 p.m. Oct. 12 in town hall.

For more than an hour Monday, residents and neighbors addressed the board with concerns about traffic, safety, character of the neighborhood, water and drainage, and conformity with the comprehensive plan. Some cast doubt on the developer’s preparedness, ability to articulate the project’s benefits and knowledge of the community.

In total, 19 residents spoke, with one resident taking the podium twice.

After conducting other business, the board engaged in public discussion with the developer, Bob Miller Jr.  

Traffic expert Wendy Holsberger explained in greater detail the traffic study but ultimately admitted that neither her firm nor the engineering firm conducted live traffic counts. Rather, they compiled data using industry standards and New York State Department of Transportation numbers.

“You followed the right procedure (to produce the study results),” said Genghis Khan, Planning Board member. “We need to interpret those results based on our knowledge of the area and what residents think.”

Planning Board member Morris Auster expressed concern about the scale of the project and asked Miller if he could come back to the board with a plan that does not require a zoning change.

Planning Board member Michael Skrebutenas said: “The public has been reasoned and measured in its comments. If the project requires a zone change, that’s a legislative act which requires the consent of the governed, which (legislators) don’t have.”

There are two ways to officially change the use of a piece of property. One is a use variance that requires meeting tough, high legal standards. The other is a zone change, which is a legal change made to the designation of a property. 

Planning Board member Chris LaFlamme noted that he had never before seen a project that prompted this level of public reaction.

Miller said he’d welcome conversation with any resident who wants to sit down and ask questions and have a discussion. 

Architect Brett Balzer presented renderings and elevations to help both the board and the public picture the final project.

The Planning Board will meet Oct. 16 — after the town's public hearing on the issue — to make its recommendation to the Town Board. The Town Board could then vote on the zoning change as early as its Oct. 24 meeting.

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