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New Scotland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, December 8, 2005
Amedore withdraws project
Developer storms out
By Holly Grosch
NEW SCOTLAND George Amedore is fed up with the town. He stormed out of the planning board meeting on Tuesday night, waving his arms and saying, "I’m done! I’m rescinding my application."
He told The Enterprise on Wednesday that he is worn and tired. "Every time I go back, they want something new," he said.
Amedore Homes had proposed building senior condos and townhouses, 206 units in total, on 74 acres along Route 85 next to the old Saab dealership, with 125,000 square feet of commercial space out in front.
The land is owned by Peter Baltis.
The application for a Planned Unit Development which requires a zone change from the town board, has been tied up for a year at the planning board, which has to make a recommendation.
Planning board attorney Louis Neri said that the planning boards recommendation to the town board is not binding.
While some planning board members in the recent past have conceded that the process has taken awhile, the board agrees they do not want to take an official vote and make a recommendation on the zoning change until a sewer study has been completed, analyzing Bethlehems capacity to service the development.
The town of Bethlehem neighbors New Scotland near the site of the proposed development and currently services New Scotlands only public sewer district, Heldervale, which runs along Mason Lane and Route 85.
Amedore said that he is not going, to spend $25,000 to do a sewer study without a nod that his project "in concept" is liked by the municipality.
"I’m not playing this game anymore," Amedore told The Enterprise. The planning board is asking technical questions that are not appropriate at this time in the process, he said.
He said he was expecting to do traffic studies and wetland delineation, but not until the site plan review, which comes after the town board grants a zone change. But, at this point, after a year, his project is still not before the town board.
The town doesn’t have a "structured system to process the application," Amedore said. He doesn’t see his company returning to New Scotland until the town officials are capable of "acting a little more professional," he said.
However, directly after Tuesdays meeting was let out, town officials said, how unprofessionally Amedore had acted, storming out of the room.
"He’ll be back; he’s got too much invested," planning board member Chuck Voss said.
Amedore "wants people to say they’re not going to have any issues with it," and that’s ridiculous, said Councilman Richard Reilly, who is the town board’s liaison to the planning board .
The town keeps saying it has a "great piece of commercial property," Amedore said, but what it has is "really nothing." Even the Saab dealership went out of business there is nothing to sustain businesses in town; New Scotland can’t do it without housing, he said.
He has offered a desirable project for the town providing needed housing for the aging, with self contained private roads to be maintained by a homeowners association, taking the burden off the town, Amedore said. And the project will not add a lot of children to the school system since it is for residents 55 years or older. It also offers lots of commercial space, he said.
It was a great opportunity a $55 million project, which would have been the largest development New Scotland has seen, Amedore said.
"They can’t treat me like they have been doing; I don’t have to take it," Amedore told The Enterprise on Wednesday. He said he is busy with plenty of other projects in the Capital Region and that he doesnt need to bother himself with New Scotland anymore.
"They’re stringing me along, wasting my time and spending my money," he said.
Amedore has been in the business for 30 years, and, he said, usually a planning boards recommendation to a town board regarding a PUD takes two months.
He has spent a lot of money already on engineers, land planners, and on a very expensive market and feasibility study, he said. Amedore Homes has already spent "tens and tens of thousands of dollars," he said not willing to disclose an exact amount.
He keeps changing his plan to accommodate the town’s request and, he said, "I’m not going to do it anymore."
"I’ll walk away from it now, I’m done wasting my time," he said.
Planning board views
Tuesday, when the housing development came up on the agenda, the planning board members began the discussion by expressing their reservation about the project.
Planning board Chair Robert Stapf directed the board members by reminding them that they need to give the town board a sense of acceptable commercial uses and maximum density for the residences.
Planning board members disagreed on a number of issues.
Board members were split on if they liked the self-storage facilities proposed between the least expensive condos and the commercial buildings in front by the road. Some of the members said that they would rather have some other type of commercial use like offices.
They also varied in opinion on whether a two-story building should be allowed to abut Route 85, weighing the desire for aesthetics versus an additional floor of commercial tax revenue.
The width of the street was even contentious. Stapf said that he would like the streets to be 50 feet wide because he was concerned about snow plows getting through and he was concerned about the town many years down the line having to pick up responsibility for the roads.
Donald Zee, who has been the attorney representing the project all along, said that it is written into the proposed planned unit development legislation so that the roads can never become publicly owned.
Zee added that residents of high-end homes, will not allow their homeowners association to financially fail.
"You’ll be surprised," planning board member Cynthia Elliott said. But she went on to say that she was in favor of the proposed road size and liked that the homeowner’s association would remain in control of the roadways.
"Without infrastructure, commercial property is very hard to sell," said Planning Board member Robert Smith. While he would like the whole area to remain commercial, he said he doesn’t know if he can actually see that happening with other proposals in the future. If this PUD happens, Smith said, "It is setting the precedent for the rest of the commercial."
He added that everyone knows that Omni Development is watching from across the street. It received approval to build a doctors office on Route 85, but has future plans for senior condos as well.
Smith said one of his biggest concerns is if the PUD is granted, new residents will be moving onto a piece of land surrounded by a commercial and industrial zone. People living in the $250,000 townhouses located behind the old Saab dealership site, will be filing into town hall if a Wal-Mart for example, which is a permitted use, wants to go into that vacant commercial lot, Smith said.
Voss said that he would still like to see more commercial space, "I can’t see this heavy residential..."
Elliott said she was not comfortable making a rezoning recommendation for a parcel of land when 14 percent of it is undelineated wet land.
Chazen engineer Joseph Lanaro, said that his firm has delineated roughly, and is well aware that the maximum density of the project may need to be reduced after the wetlands are delineated.
Planning board member and town board elect, Douglas LaGrange said, he is walking a tightrope on the use. It is hard to approve high residential density in the commercial corridor under the notion that the town needs more houses in order to support commercial growth, he said. This is especially true with a large housing development proposed for Hilton Road which is in an area of town actually currently zoned for residential use, he said.
Hilton Road had been in the works for over 20 years, said Zee, adding that he at one time was the attorney representing a previous proposal for that land. "There still hasn’t been a shovel in the ground...The town has density issues over there as well," Zee said.
At the November planning board meeting the applicant for the first time introduced self storage buildings, which they thought would be well received because it assures the town a certain amount of commercial space as the residences are being built, additionally the self storage units would create no traffic on Route 85 because it would be primarily used by residents in the condos on internal roads.
After various board members expressed lingering reservations about the PUD, Lanaro said, "You are basically telling us to pack up and go home...You’re pushing use back to square one."
"It feels like we’re chasing our tails," he said.
Stapf said that he would like the sanitary sewer and water issues to be resolved before making a recommendation.
"I’ve been asked to make changes back and forth all the time... I’ve been coming here for over a year with a valuable, very good and much-needed project," Amedore said. It’s getting to the point where it has become ridiculous, he said.
"I am not going to change the density; I need this density," he said, to make it economically worth his investment.
"You can forget about commercial...you don’t have enough rooftops to support this amount of commercial," he said.
"Yes or no, right now," Amedore said. I’ll do all the studies, he said.
"I’m going around in circles...just tell me one way or another...I want you to vote on this project up or down, right now," he said.
"Personally, myself, I’m in favor of the project," Stapf told Amedore. "I want the board to withdraw my application right now," if the board is not going to vote, Amedore said.
"You’re not scaring me right now," Stapf responded.
"I’m not trying to scare you....I don’t want to waste my time or yours anymore," Amedore said.
At this point both the planning board lawyer and one of the engineers from the towns engineering firm offered the board advice.
"I sit here and don’t say anything," engineer Keith Menia said, explaining his usual approach. But, he went on, "The town board sent this to you for preliminary review." The town board still has to do an environmental review, and water, sewer and traffic studies, he said. Where "we are all caught right now," he said, is when to do the technical stuff.
"You are only an advisory board," Neri chimed in. He told board members they had just been asked by the town board to declare "could this be a viable project." The technical work will come up later, Neri said.
Based on the way the town law reads, the planning board should give its recommendation now, Neri said.
LaGrange, who has been elected to the town board, said he had asked the sitting town board members at a recent town board meeting what they expected from the planning board because he knew this threshold question was going to come up. Councilman Scott Houghtaling had replied that he wanted practically a site-plan review.
"We have batted out quite a few issues," Stapf said, but the board does not want to make an official recommendation without the sewer study being done.
Each board member then expressed his or her view on the PUD concept in general.
Voss said he could support a PUD legislation, but he said his concern is that he would want the town board to look at the bigger picture, to look at the corridor and decide how the project fits into that. Voss said he likes mixed use, but "in this complexion," he is not entirely convinced.
While there are density issues with the Hilton Road PUD proposal, he said that he was not as concerned with a residential PUD in that community because it is not within a commercial zone.
He said he is not worried about the details, like the facade, and roads, which will all be worked out later. "My concern is this larger issue" of the corridor’s over-all zoning, Voss said.
"Mr. Amedore, I know all these people with you are not free," Smith said. The applicant had at least four employees with him at the meeting.
"I’m totally in favor of this and think it would be a good start for the town," Smith said. For the town "to stand still and do nothing is criminal," Smith said. But then did not make a motion to vote.
Planning board member Kevin Kroencke said he liked the concept of a PUD as well, but he didnt like that 40 percent of the commercial space was for self-storage, when there are already self-storage facilities down on Route 85 and in the village, and other self-storage units were proposed in the spring next to Stewarts, although those applicants have not returned.
Stapf told Amedore that the feeling he had gotten from the board, based on the discussion, is that everyone is in favor of the project overall and all they need now is the sewer study to move forward.
Lanaro asked the board, if it could pass on a favorable recommendation with the stipulation that a sewer study be done.
"No, Joe, I’m not stipulating it on anything," Amedore said as he stood up, saying that he wouldn’t take it anymore and that he was finished.
"I’m not going to be backed into a corner," Stapf said as Amedore threats became a reality.
Amedore turned to leave and when he was standing in the aisle, he said, let the record show that "I’m rescinding my application."
He started to walk out of the meeting room and about three-quarters of the way to the door, he turned around to speak to his employees. Come on "we’re leaving," he said. "Let’s go," he said, with a sweeping motion of his hand.
The sitting men in suits quickly looked around at each other, at Amedore, and up at the board, and then got up and left with their boss.
Stapf turned to his fellow board members and said that any of them were welcome to make a motion if they wanted, but he wasnt going to.
All the board members shook their heads, no. One member said, "Let him go."
Voss, sitting at the end of the board leaned over the table and looked down toward Stapf sitting in the middle, "You can’t be pushed into a corner," he said supportively.
At Lesh concert
Vville trio nabbed for UPM
Three Voorheesville men were among a dozen people arrested on Dec. 4 for a variety of drug charges during a concert at the Washington Avenue Armory by the Grateful Deads former guitarist Phil Lesh and Friends Winter Tour.
All three were charged with unlawful possession of marijuana, a violation, and were released on appearance tickets to appear in Albany Police Court.
Robert Deane, 18, of 630 New Salem Road;
Jeremy Ferguson, 23, of 32A South Main Street; and
Peter George, 19, of 43 Maple Road.
The arrests were made by members of the Albany County Sheriffs Department Drug Interdiction Unit, headed by Inspector John Burke, along with members of the Schenectady County Sheriffs Department.
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