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'Brainstorming' on Heck property continues for Niskayuna planners

'Brainstorming' on Heck property continues for Niskayuna planners

Mixed-use zoning considered for 44-acre tract and possible future reuse
'Brainstorming' on Heck property continues for Niskayuna planners
Planners said the state has not signaled an effort to sell the property. But they want new zoning in place.
Photographer: Photo provided

Niskayuna town planners last week continued their "brainstorming" on the O.D. Heck property at 500 Balltown Road.

The 43.8-acre parcel, home to Capital District Developmental Disabilities Service Organization-Oswald D. Heck Developmental Center, has become a popular topic for planners and people who live near the property.

Planners say they are looking to the future. They want to rezone the property from R-2 for residential use (medium density) to a neighborhood-mixed use designation.

The new code will mean that instead of dozens of new single-family homes filling the land -- the kind of development allowed under the current zoning -- the town could give future developers the green light to use the space for a mix of residential and retail spaces.

Planners said the state has not signaled an effort to sell the property. If the land does go up for sale, they want the new zoning in place.

The space includes 12 buildings and is also home to the Pooh's Corner Child Care Center.

"We're trying to make it the best product possible," said Kevin A. Walsh, the board's chairman, who reiterated the board's thinking that a change in zoning is the smart way to go - to get the best use out of the land for the community.

Residents have been concerned with increased retail presence in the area -- an area they say is already loaded with places to shop -- and increased traffic. Some have suggested that some wooded parts of the land remain undeveloped as a nature sanctuary.

Board Alternate Member Leslie Gold said she was concerned about the challenge any prospective developer could face - buildings will have to be demolished. And something will have to be done with tunnels on the property.

"That's going to be daunting for a lot of residential developers," Gold said of the costs.

Board Member Michael Skrebutenas and town Planner Laura Robertson added that a sale process involving the state and the land -- if one ever takes place -- could take many years.

"This could be a great planning exercise," Robertson said.

In other business, Luigi Palleschi of ABD Engineers appeared on behalf of Lou and Elena Lecce, who own property at 1380 Van Antwerp Road.

The Lecces hope to split the property into three parcels, retain the existing single-family home for one parcel and build two new single-family homes on the other two parcels. The Leeces are hoping to secure sketch plan approval from the board.

"Sketch plan approval you really need to have a plan with the utilities that works and he still needs to work on his utilities," Robertson said. "My recommendation is it be two lots."

Planners are hoping to conserve trees on the parcel. The matter will come before the board once again during one of the board's March meetings.

The board also considered site plan approval requested by Ray Gagnon of JDog Junk Removal and Hauling, a salvage operation that has moved into 398 Anthony St.

Robertson said the business moved into Anthony Street last June, without tenant change procedures.

"The new tenant must get site plan approval," Robertson said.

Business owners say hazardous materials are not accepted, so none will be stored on site. The approval process will continue in March.

Contact Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]

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