Niskayuna's Aqueduct Animal Hospital -- which has been criticized as a noisy neighbor in the past -- is planning new construction and a move to Rexford.
Dr. Matthew Pike, who has owned the longtime hospital on Balltown Road since 2009, on Monday filed a site plan and application with the Clifton Park Planning Department.
Dozens of people who support the hospital were part of a large crowd at the Sept. 25 session of the Niskayuna Town Board. Supporters -- along with Pike -- were concerned a proposed new law that would govern dog barking would also adversely affect the business.
John Scavo Jr., Clifton Park's director of planning, said Pike has proposed an 8,290-square-foot animal hospital and boarding facility for the 2.68-acre southeast corner of the intersection of Balltown Road and Riverview Road.
The area is classified as a mixed-use zone.
"It's directly across from where Stewart's is on Riverview," Scavo said. "It's a vacant parcel. There is a cancer treatment center [New York Oncology Hematology] just east of that location, also on Riverview Road.
"They're proposing shared access through a common ingress and egress agreement for that facility," Scavo added. "There's no residential on that side that I'm aware off."
A section of the Edison Club golf course is also located on Riverview, across from the proposed, currently wooded site.
Niskayuna's September meeting included a 90-minute, often-emotional public hearing on dogs, barking and the hospital. Most supported Pike, and many spoke against wording in proposed legislation.
Town officials said the current law governing nuisance barking is difficult for police to enforce. They also said the animal hospital was not being targeted by the new law; at the time of the hearing, animal complaints had been received from people who live all over town.
Residents of Schwaber Drive, located near the hospital, had complained about continuous barking at the hospital, noise they said often woke them in the middle of the night.
Pike said he has decided to move partly because the proposed building will be almost twice as large as the current animal hospital, which measures 4,500 square feet.
"The lower taxes are certainly welcoming there, too," Pike said. "I had the option to try to go through the Zoning Board of Appeals process with the town of Niskayuna or I could go where I'm zoned properly in a place that's literally two minutes door-to-door from where I am."
Pike said the new operation -- if approved by Clifton Park officials -- will offer separate spaces for dogs and cats.
"The dogs won't ever see the cats and vice versa," Pike said. "We're building a separate treatment room for the cats. The cats won't even be housed near dogs. ... Currently we have two exam rooms, we're going to be going to five. We currently have one treatment table, we're going to be going to four."
Offices for staff veterinarians and office manager, a break room for employees and an animal intensive care unit are also planned for the Rexford location.
Pike also said he told members of the Niskayuna Town Board he was considering a move -- before the September board meeting.
"I told the Town Board," Pike said. "When I met privately with them, I told them I was thinking about moving and if that made them not do this [consider new law], please don't do it. They were upset I was not considering staying. I couldn't understand why they were so upset with me about it."
The current animal hospital property, Pike said, eventually could be sold.
"I think it's going to be a win-win," he said. "We can put something better on this land that would kind of go with what Niskayuna is doing right now. They clearly don't want a veterinary hospital."
The hospital, founded in 1956 by Dr. Franklin Rapp, preceded neighborhood developments.
Scavo said the the Clifton Park Planning Board has already discussed the plan with Pike, who is using Lansing Engineering of Malta for the project. The animal hospital proposal is on the agenda for the board's meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 23.
The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. A vote on the project will not be part of the evening's proceedings.
"If the Planning Board feels their comments have been adequately addressed," Scavo said, "they'll advise the applicant to proceed forward to preliminary review with possible final determination. That's really when they back in all the engineering details at that point to the site and come back at a future date for potential approvals.
"It's not a public hearing, but we do allow public comment," Scavo added. "They can submit comments in writing, and we do take comments at the meeting, too."
Scavo said Clifton Park planners have dealt with other animal care projects in the past.
"Most recently it was a new animal hospital on Route 146, next to the Sterling Heights neighborhood," Scavo said of the Animal Care Hospital of Clifton Park. "They're doing a knock-down and a rebuild of a new facility. There was zero controversy and the residents and animal hospital have co-existed for years without a problem."
Some residential streets are located near the Balltown and Riverview intersection -- McLane Street and Hollister Road. The streets are located near the Schenectady Yacht Club.
Niskayuna Supervisor Yasmine Syed said the town never likes to see a business leave. She said town officials had heard that Pike had been talking to Clifton Park planners.
"I wish him the best," Syed said. "I would hope that he would stay just for his Niskayuna patrons, but it seems like he's close enough that his current customers will still be able to make the trip."
Board Member John Della Ratta said he was sorry to hear about the planned move.
"I met with Dr. Pike a number of times and, in my last meeting, I committed, as well as did some other board members, to try to help him upgrade his property," Della Ratta said. "In fact, one of my colleagues met with the town planner [Thursday] to discuss how best to work with Dr. Pike. He's a valued business here in the town of Niskayuna."
Pike was unable to make large improvements to his Balltown Road property due to zoning restrictions. Della Ratta said Niskayuna zoning codes were changed during the early 1970s; the section of Balltown around the animal hospital was zoned residential.
"The commercial businesses were allowed to stay there because they were already there," Della Ratta said, "but they could only expand up to 10 percent.
"He can expand, but only 10 percent of his business and 10 percent of his footprint," Della Ratta added, "and I'm sure he wants to do more than that. He can do more than that, but it's very difficult to do and I think that's what he was struggling with."
Contact Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected].