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Niskayuna planners delay Van Antwerp subdivision decision

Niskayuna planners delay Van Antwerp subdivision decision

Concerns over historic nature of property expressed
Niskayuna planners delay Van Antwerp subdivision decision
The carriage house and attached garage at 1380 Van Antwerp Road in Niskayuna are pictured.
Photographer: Jeff Wilkin/Gazette Reporter

The Niskayuna Planning Board is expected to resume discussion later this month on a resolution that, if passed, will grant sketch plan approval for a controversial three-lot subdivision at 1380 Van Antwerp Road.

On Monday, the Van Antwerp resolution was removed from the board's meeting agenda at the request of the applicants, Lou and Elena Lecce.

If approved, the subdivision will make room for two additional homes on the property, which also contains a landmark farmhouse built in 1826. Town Planner Laura Robertson expects the resolution will be placed on the agenda for the board's April 29 meeting.

The meeting is being held a week later than usual to accommodate people who have made plans over Easter Week.

Concerns have been raised about the project. The five-acre spot between Hilltop Road and McGovern Drive located across the street from Van Antwerp Village once contained just the farmhouse and a carriage house-garage; a 2017 subdivision put three more houses on the site — 2459 Hilltop Road, 2463 Hilltop Road and 2456 McGovern Drive.

People who live near the subdivision have spoken against the plan during the past several Planning Board meetings. They do not want to see two more houses on the property and believe the neighborhood's character will be negatively affected by additional structures.

They are also worried about ecological impacts they believe will come with fewer trees and increased water run-off.

Tim Serrantonio of Antonia Drive said the six neighbors who spoke against the subdivision on Monday represent a larger number. He said 28 people have signed an electronic petition against the proposal, and it has been filed with the Planning Department.

"Ultimately, it comes down to the nature and character of the neighborhood," Serrantonio said. "Changing that gateway is going to be extremely detrimental for not only historical reasons but economic reasons and environmental reasons ... this is going to hurt property values if this goes through."

Historical preservation has become part of the discussion.

In a memorandum written by Deputy Town Attorney Robert Hess and distributed to board members (it is also available online), Hess wrote that preservation of natural features is part of the town code.

Hess also said the study, "A Graphical History of Niskayuna 1650-2009," places the construction year of 1380 Van Antwerp at 1826.

"It is clear that the existing home at 1380 Van Antwerp Road is one of the earliest homes constructed in the town of Niskayuna and it has been identified by a previous historic resources survey as a historic spot," Hess wrote. "Based on these facts, the Planning Board should address the issue of whether 1380 Van Antwerp is the type of historic spot that [town code] is trying to preserve."

The Lecce plans call for the removal of a garage connected to a former carriage house.

Board member Patrick McPartlon said he had a recent conversation with Lou Lecce and talked to him about neighbors' concerns regarding his plans. "We could be seeing a different plan in front of us the next time we see the applicant," McPartlon said.

The Planning Department has recommended disapproval for the sketch plan. The property's historic qualities, potential environmental impacts and the possible removal of site trees described by the town's Tree Council as "distinct and valuable" are among reasons planners gave for their decision.

"We looked at two lots, but even if you do two lots, you're going to impact the historical nature of that property," said Robertson, the town planner.

Robertson said plans could win approval if developers could figure out a way to keep the property's historical characteristics.

"But I think it would be very hard to do," she said. "It's a possibility to do, but you'd have to work really hard at it."

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

 

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