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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, December 29, 2005


N.S. Year Ender 2005

By Holly Grosch

NEW SCOTLAND — This still-rural town is on the threshold of development as several projects were proposed in 2005.

Development is knocking on New Scotland’s northeast side door, with a foot in the archway. Planning visions for the northeast quadrant are pulling from different sectors. Petitioning citizens want to rezone to allow only 2-acre lots or larger, while a developer is requesting a planned unit development rezone to accommodate his proposed 282-unit housing development bisected by Hilton Road named Kensington Woods.

Also on the Bethlehem-New Scotland border at the end of La Grange Road, the Vista Tech Park, a multi-million-dollar business-development project organized by Albany county and to be built by BBL Development is proposed for about 440 acres. About 20 percent of the technology park will lie within New Scotland.

The total development is for 1.4 million square feet of office, lab, and research space.

Bill Herbert, the vice president of development for BBL, told The Enterprise this week that 15 to 20 buildings are proposed in total with two or three of them to be located within the borders of New Scotland. Each New Scotland building will offer 200,000 to 300,000 square feet of commercial space.

Herbert called it "clean technology" such as the computer industry, he said. The Tech park is proposed for an area of town that is currently zoned residential, and will need a re-zone to permit commercial use. Herbert said that he will come before New Scotland’s boards this winter with an official plan.

The PUD proposal for Kensington Woods has 206 buildings hosting 281 residential units on 267 acres of land; 114 acres are reserved for open space.

Kensington Wood’s houses are expected to range in price from $300,000 to over $1 million.

In the mix are 152 townhouse-like units and 129 single-family homes. Units range in size from 9,000 square feet to lots of 40,000 square feet.

The development is to have its own sewer district, with sewer on site and water from the well on the property. The aquifer on the old Tall Timbers site has enough water to supply the whole housing project and the town’s commercial corridor. All the roads and utilities are proposed to be dedicated to the town after construction.

Scott Lansing, an engineer for the developer, claims that, while some of the individual lota will be 10,000 square feet, the overall density for the total 267 acres will be within the current zoning regulations density.

The area of town where Kensington Woods is proposed is currently designated medium density residential, which allows subdivision into lots of 22,000 square feet.

A planned unit development, an article in the town’s zoning law, allows a developer to group housing together into smaller individual lots, but as a result creates more open space and purposeful construction, architecture, and landscaping.

At the same time that the town board considers this planned unit development re-zone, which would be creating its own separate zone unlike any other zone in town, the board is also considering the Northeast Neighborhood Association’s re-zone petition, requesting all lots to be at least two acres.

Both zoning changes can co-exist.

Even if the town board were to re-zone to two-acre lots, the planned-unit development would be a re-zone within that, so that the area surrounding Kensington Woods would have two-acre lots and then, within Kensington Woods, would be the PUD zone.

Large landowners within the medium-density zone are adamantly against rezoning to a reduced density. Anthony Genovesi and Robert Cook have both stated that two-acre zoning makes development spread out and is too costly for installing infrastructure, making it economically impossible to build affordable housing.

The town board plans to start off the new year with many public-information sessions and meetings dedicated to listening to public input on the northeast section, and on both zoning proposals.

While considering the zoning for housing in the northeast quadrant, the town board also wants to address creating a commercial zone for the Vista Tech Park, which is proposed for an area currently zoned for residences.

Comprehensive plan

Supervisor Ed Clark has a long-term goal of updating the town’s comprehensive land-use plan, something he campaigned on in his successful bid for re-election. The town’s first comprehensive plan was originally created in 1994, and has not been updated since. Clark announced in December that he is recommending for the reorganizational meeting on Jan. 1 appointing new town board member Douglas LaGrange, a previous planning board member, as a liaison to start the process of a new comprehensives plan, which will involve committees.

There has been some resistance to making a new comprehensive plan.

Councilman Scott Houghtaling, who chose not to run this November is stepping down after 12 years on the board. His parting recommendation to the board in the last few months has been that New Scotland has to look at zoning town-wide, not just in chunks.

At the December town board meeting, all the sitting board members agreed that the industrial zone in the route 85 and 85A corridor, north of the commercial zone, needs to be switched to commercial, since the industrial designation is no longer appropriate with the D&H railroad gone. This industrial designation sits just below the medium-density zone where Kensington Woods is proposed.

RPAC

Redesigning this industrial zone was one of the recommendations made by the Residents Planning Advisory Committee in a report submitted to the town board at the start of 2005.

After a 19-month process that included 40 forums, written surveys sent to every postal address in town with 534 of them returned, and a visual-impact demonstration, the committee of 12 citizens commissioned by the town board submitted a 40 -page report with planning recommendations for the town as a whole, but with about three-quarters of the report focusing on just the Route 85 and 85A corridor, as the committee was charged to do.

The report covers a wide range of issues including re-zonng suggestions, aesthetic guidelines, building designs, landscaping requirements, and ways to encourage farming in the community.

When people look at the corridor of routes 85A and 85, the report says, they see the opportunity to: preserve vistas and the agricultural character of town; encourage commercial development; build senior housing, and create additional recreational resources for both the young and old.

The committee was quickly put on the defensive as large landowners stormed town hall in February with concerns about some of the zoning recommendations. The most controversial one was quarter/quarter zoning, which would allow only one residential non-agricultural lot per 40 acres of farmland.

Clarksville dairy farmer Charles Van Wie questioned the validity of the surveys with only about 500 responses. He asked the committee members and the town board, "How do you think this is a thing from the whole town""

"One of the glaring omissions from the survey was demographic information," said David Moreau, who owns 100 acres on Youmans Road. What Voorheesville villagers think is very different than what the rural community thinks, Moreau said.

"These people’s agendas — it’s a socialism...a mechanism of redistributing the wealth," Moreau told The Enterprise .

Van Wie said he didn’t care if sidewalks are put in on the corridor or if a building in the commercial district has a flat roof. "I don’t have a nickel invested in that," he told the board.

"But taking away our equity and value...Who put that there"" Van Wie asked. Finding out that the committee wants the town to change zoning, Van Wie said, "I get nervous about that."

The town board has taken no action on the recommendations at all since they were submitted in January.

One heated meeting was held between town-board members, planning-board members, and RPAC committee members in June after the report sat on the shelf for six months. Some planning board members said they felt like the committee had put the planning board under attack, basically saying they were not efficient.

Committee member Dan Mackay said he just wanted to elevate the town’s planning to more, rather than it being dependent on spot-by-spot review and the opinions of a few members on a board whose composition is ever-changing.

Route 85 and the year of PUDs

The commercial zone on Route 85 remains under developed. The town wants more businesses to offer residents services but also there is a need for more revenue. Only 4 percent of the town’s tax revenue comes from commercial and industrial ventures.

One new commercial building was approved for the corridor by the town in 2005. The Omni Development group is going to construct a medical office building on the old Tee-Time Golf site. Omni has future plans of placing senior condos in the back, although it has not brought those plans before the planning board yet.

Amedore Homes and Gordon Brothers Development had proposed senior townhouses, condos and 125,000 square feet of commercial space for 74 acres next to the old Saab dealership in the commercial zone. They submitted an application for a planned unit development re-zone to permit their development, since residences are not allowed under the existing zoning.

After the PUD spent the year in review before the planning board, George Amedore stormed out of December’s planning board meeting, saying he was fed up with New Scotland’s government which did not have an efficient way to process a planned-unit development application.

The planning board members all stated that they were generally in favor of his project, but were not willing to give it a favorable recommendation until a sewer study was completed. Amedore did not want to spend the additional $22,000 on a sewer study without the favorable recommendation in place for the zone change.

He told The Enterprise he was tired of getting mixed messages every month — different town officials were making contradicting planning requests. Also he said the town was too slow in approving the re-zone request so that it could move on to the site-plan review phase, where he was expecting to do the sewer study. He said New Scotland’s process was costing him more money than the project was worth to him, when he has plenty of other projects in the works in the Capital Region that are desired by those towns, he said.

The planning board members said that Amedore had acted unprofessional storming out of the room and trying to intimidate and scare the board into making a decision. The board members said that they were not going to be backed into a corner.

After the first planned-unit development request did not proceed smoothly, the town is discussing how to move forward on Kensington Woods PUD. New Scotland is trying to sketch out a road map before starting. Although the zoning administrator, town engineer, town attorney, different planning leaders, and town officials all have different ideas of how to proceed, they are attempting to work together to move forward, and take the appropriate steps.

At the last town board meeting, it was even unclear when was the appropriate time to hold public scoping sessions.

The December town board meeting, was the first public meeting where the Kensington Woods developer, engineer, and attorney were in attendance at the same time as the Neighborhood Association members, large land owners and the town board. At this meeting, a sense of patience and willingness to work together and commitment was expressed by all.

Lyon Greenberg of the Northeast Neighborhood Association, said, "No one is against developing that area," but the community would like to have a say in how it is developed.

Another resident said that what happens to this project will affect the whole town; everyone keeps speaking about the 170 people who signed the petition, but Kensington Woods will affect traffic, community character, and everyone’s quality of life, he said. The town has a population of about 8,500.

Lou Masullo of the Masullo Brother Builders assured the crowd that he wants to get input from the community on his project. Masullo has lived in Voorheesville’s school district and just outside the town of New Scotland for 21 years, he said. He said he looks forward to working with the planning board, and that he is bringing into the town a project with an estimated value of $150 million in housing stock, which will take 10 years to build out; he said he is here for the long haul.

Water

The town is in the midst of negotiations with Albany to purchase water and with Bethlehem to transmit water.

It has been the goal of New Scotland for many years to find a new water source.

The Vly Creek Reservoir within New Scotland town lines is owned by Bethlehem. Bethlehem sells new Scotland water for a number of the town’s water districts, at a rate twice that of what Bethlehem charges its own residents.

Supervisor Clark, and R. Mark Dempf the water committee chair who is also the town engineer met with the Albany city water board most recently on Nov. 23.

Albany and Bethlehem both want things to be as simple as possible, Clark told The Enterprise. He said that Albany has said that it just wants to deal with one bill and one town — Bethlehem. The plan is to have Bethlehem pump more water over to New Scotland so that New Scotland can expand its own water districts, and then Albany will supply Bethlehem with more water to compensate.

New Scotland town officials met with Bethlehem on Dec. 14 to discuss the transmission agreement; Clark said that negotiations are going well.

Bethlehem also has the long-term goal of cleaning up the complicated water systems in New Scotland, Clark said, such as in New Salem where there are tons of spaghetti lines, little makeshift water lines dating back years running off Bethlehem’s main lines.

Town line

Another issue that still needs to be negotiated with Bethlehem is the towns’ jurisdiction lines. Where the town line, tax lines, and jurisdiction fall is up for debate. The tax map and town border don’t match.

A number of times at zoning and planning meetings this past year, the Albany County Planning Board has returned negative declarations to the local board saying that New Scotland does not have jurisdiction on the application since the property may fall under Bethlehem’s jurisdiction.

At least twice the local boards overruled the county’s decision with super majority votes approving the two applications. With super majorites the zoning board approved a variance for Michael Saccocio to subdivide a 2.95 acre parcel to build two houses on Krumkill Road; and the planning board approved the site plan for the construction of the First Assembly of God Church on Krumkill.

Paul Cantlin, New Scotland’s zoning administrator, said that Saccocio’s property is within 185 feet of the town’s taxing jurisdiction. He stated that town lines were determined many years ago based on a rock or a stream which may have moved over time, while the tax lines are precise. He said that the town’s authority has always been determined based on taxing jurisdiction.

"Where it was assessed is where it stays," Cantlin told The Enterprise.

In May, Mark Platel, Bethlehem’s building inspector, showed up at New Scotland’s zoning board meeting with a letter in hand, expressing an interest in the Saccocio property.

Cantlin said that, while all parties can have their varying opinions, New Scotland has to have a policy to follow and that policy has been that jurisdiction is based on tax lines. The town’s zoning department is going to continue to use this policy unless the two town boards sit down and settle it differently, he said.

Bethlehem’s assessor at the time, David Leafer, told The Enterprise that there are a number of properties up and down the border in limbo that need to be negotiated.

New Scotland’s assessor Julie Nooney told The Enterprise this summer that she, Leafer, and both town supervisors had met to discuss jurisdiction, although she said it was in preliminary stages. They got together maps of both New Scotland’s and Bethlehem’s tax and town lines and looked to see if some land swapping was feasible, she said.

In most cases, there is a piece of a property where the house is in New Scotland but the backyard is in Bethlehm, or the house is in Bethlhem, but the side yard is New Scoltand, so that the landowner receives two tax bills, "which is kind of ridiculous," Nooney said,

In some case, a whole piece of property is within the town lines of Bethlehem but has been taxed by New Scotland, she said, such as the Assembly of God Church.

The proposed 440-acre Vista Tech Park falls on the border of both towns within one of the disputed border areas. Clark told The Enterprise this month that right now, the town is in negotiations with Bethlehem over where the town border line falls in relation to the Tech Park.

Clarksville water

New Scotland has been reviewing and analyzing ways to afford much-needed improvements, repairs, and desired expansions of the Clarksville Water district.

The town applied twice this year to receive aid from the state, but to no avail. The town has held a series of public-information sessions at the Onesquethaw firehouse, apprising residents of the options.

Dempf has charted six various projects with differing costs. He said the town has to pick one of the options, and the idea is to include as many new users as possible, which will help pay for the overall project.

For example, to just make the needed improvements — replacing the Stove Pipe Road water tank, upgrading the booster pump, and repairing the well house — the project will cost $446,000, meaning an average annual user cost of $661.

However, if the town makes those improvement plus allows the 43 residents with direct access to the existing mains and extends the district to the lower half of Upper Flat Rock Road and a few people along Route 32, the overall project would cost $702,000, but individual user cost would be only $632.

The town board is considering 20-, 25- and 30-year bonds and refinancing the debt.

Also some of the expansion options include extending public water down Morning Star Lane.

After a permissive referendum, the Clarksville and North Road water districts were consolidated into one district by a November town-board resolution.

Now there are no longer two separate districts feeding off the Winne Lane wells, but one large Clarksville district, so that all the residents on the public water system are going to be charged the same rate and collectively pay into the maintenance needs of the whole system.

Consolidating the two districts into one was a stipulation of a grant that was given to the town in 1995 to construct the North Road District.

Clarksville residents are wary about the total upgrade expansion project, especially building a new water tank, one of the largest costs of the improvements. The current water tank is only 15 years old, and the Clarksville residents expressed discontent with town officials for letting infrastructure deteriorate so badly; that now there is a large sum needed for emergency repair rather than paying for smaller repairs along the way.

Dempf said that, according to tests done on the water tank, it should have been replaced five years ago — it is rusting out, he said.

Assessment

All property in town was revalued from July through December. The preliminary assessments will begin to be reviewed at the start of the new year, to be prepared for the May 1 tentative assessment role.

New Scotland has almost completed its reassessment — the last revaluation was done in 1997. Reassessments are necessary to preserve equity, Assessor Nooney has said.

At this point, many of the phases of the process are complete: digital pictures have been taken of each property and entered into the assessor’s computer system; and a contractor was hired and has determined values on some commercial, industrial, and utilities parcels. Residents have filled out physical inventory of their properties and Nooney has continually reviewed the sales of property. Other steps include finalizing the residential sales to be used, and establishing land-value rates.

Phase four, the last phase begins in January where the assessing department will review preliminary 2005 assessments, mail disclosure notices, and then make the final adjustment to the assessment roll.

By February of 2006, residents can expect their assessment disclosure notices, which will list the previous assessed amount and their preliminary assessment in 2006.

Property assessments are based on fair market value, Nooney said.

Revaluation makes everyone’s assessment accurate and fair, Nooney said in February as she was reviewing data to be used in the valuation. "New Scotland is out of conformity," Nooney said at that time. "The sale price should be within 1 percent" of the assessment.

The skewing of the tax roles means newcomers end up paying an unfair share.

It is the assessor’s job to interpret what is happening in the market place; she does not create a value, Nooney stresses.

Each house is looked at specifically and each item of a home is quantitatively divided up in worth, as compared to similar houses in the neighborhood, Nooney has said.

Each component of a house is assigned a value, she said, and then all the data comes together to determine the overall assessment.

The common misconception that reevaluation will automatically increase an individual’s taxes is not true, Nooney said. Tax increases are driven by budget increases in local government, Nooney says.

It has not yet been worked out if the reassessment data will be remain accessible on line. The website is up and running now, but the town is negotiating the price with the service company.

Other news

In other town news this year:

— Jean Balashek, 86, of New Scotland Road was strangled to death in her home midday on Sunday March 13. A month later, her daughter, Corianna Thompson was arrested and charged with the murder. Thompson was released on bail in November and so far no other arrests have been made. An indictment has not been handed down.

— In the November general election where water, and planning were the two major campaign issues, the Democrats maintained a three-to-two majority on the town board with attorney Margaret "Peg" Neri securing a seat. Republican Douglas LaGrange received the most votes of the four town-board candidates after marginally losing two years ago, and Andrea Gleason an 8 year veteran to the board lost re-election.

— The tax collector of the past 16 years, Marilyn Holmberg, 80, died this summer while still holding office. She was well known for her hospitable nature. By board resolution, the town’s tax collecting has been melded with the town clerk’s office.

—Bethlehem pursued 70 easements from New Scotland residents for its new transmission water main along route 85. Bethlehem Supervisor Theresa Egan said that the neighboring town wanted to work out easements with individual landowners in mutual agreements, but that the town was prepared and willing to act on eminent domain.

— The town of New Scotland is not able to proceed with the Heldervale sewer extension number four to serve about 40 more sites along route 85 because the town has been unsuccessful at securing two easements from individual property owners along Mason Lane.

— The town’s senior service liaison director’s position is currently vacant. Sue Weisz resigned to work for Visiting Nurses of Schenectady, which offers retirement benefits. She transformed the senior liaison position to include a town nurse job, which received grant money from the Albany County Department of Aging to pay for one day a week of the senior directors’ salary for the nursing capacity. Town board members are split in their views on the importance and necessity of the nursing aspect of the job.

— In July the planning board gave preliminary plat approval for six lots on 13.9 acres at the corner of Krumkill and Font Grove roads. The houses are expected to cost $500,000 to $700,000 and sit on lots range in size from two to three acres.

Subdivision approval is still pending.

The proposal was introduced by engineer Francis Bossolini on behalf of landowner Jeremiah Manning. No developer was tied to the project at that time.

With preliminary approval, the applicant can then invest the money into the project and explore and drill for wells, said Robert Stapf chairmen of the planning board. It allows the applicant to move forward, but keeps the development under the board’s control.

This development is contingent upon water being found, and it’s a big "if," Stapf had said.

The applicant has not been back before the planning board since.

— Twelve housing lots are proposed for the end of Youmans Road on a 38 acre parcel owned by the VanZettens west of the CSX tracks. The plan is to extend Great View Terrace about 2,400 feet to a dead-end cul-de-sac, since the railroad crossing is dangerous. The long dead-end road received a variance from the zoning board this year, and the project is now before the planning board for subdivision approval.

The most recent diagrams shown to the planning board in November depicted lots ranging in size from one to six acres, with a number of the parcels running alongside the railroad, but with the houses moved as far away from the tracks as possible. The planning board has requested fences be installed for safety.

While the applicant had originally hoped to extend the Swift Road Water District, private septic systems and individual private wells are now proposed for each individual lot.

Keith Menia from the town’s engineering firm said that Swift Road system is at its permitted draw from Bethlehem and cannot serve any more customers.


Voorheesville year ender

By Tim Matteson

VOORHEESVILLE — The village of Voorheesville is in a fixing up mode heading into the new year.

The past year was spent working on budgets and passing plans for many projects that will be taking place in the 2006.

The top job, according to Mayor John Stevens, is the completion of a water project.

A half-million-dollar tank will be added and existing pipeline that runs from Clayton A. Bouton High School on Route 85A to New Scotland will be replaced. The pipeline actually begins on Martin Road.

"We added water customers that way," Stevens said. "The water out there wasn’t necessarily the best."

Also in the works during the year was a plan with the town of Guilderland. A pipeline that will interconnect Voorheesville and Guilderland will start being installed in the spring.

"It will allow our two municipalities to exchange water," Stevens said.

Also passed this year was a one-million-dollar plan for renovations to the firehouse in the village located on Route 156.

"I think it passed 3-to-1 or 4-to-1," Stevens said. "We will focus on bidding during the winter and hopefully begin construction in the spring or summer.

"It speaks volumes about the community that approved it," Stevens added. "We are looking forward to that. It’s mostly bringing it up to code and OSHA requirements."

Barton & Loguidice is the engineering firm in charge of the project.

Plans are still in the works for an expansion to the Voorheesville Public Library.

"I wrote a letter in support to get a grant or some funding to put a vault to secure our historical archives," Stevens said.

A plan for a senior-housing project is also being worked on in the village. Plans to build 48 units of public housing on Mountainview Road by St. Matthew’s Church are in the works.

"Senior housing is going along as planned," Stevens said. "We had to change the zoning to allow it and we had public hearings and it passed through the zoning board of appeals and we made the same requirements with the planning board. We received a lot of support. Now that Amedore pulled out of New Scotland, we’ll have the only senior housing in the area."

The Omni Corporation will spearhead the project on some property that was sold by St. Matthew’s Church.

There were some changes in the village offices as well.

Linda Pasquali took over as the senior clerk/treasurer position. She had been the assistant to Gary Washburn, but Washburn resigned in the fall.

Karen Finnessey was hired to be the deputy clerk/treasurer.

"It’s worked out very well," Stevens said. "We’ve gotten a lot of cooperation."

Eileen Bates was hired as a part-time clerk.

"We had a lot of turnover," Stevens said. "But we seem to have stabilization. I’m looking forward to that."

At the mayor’s request, the village was audited this year by State Comptroller Alan Hevesi. The comptroller was critical of the Voorheesville’s bookkeeping procedures, stating that the village had "significant weaknesses in payroll-related internal controls that caused errors to occur and remain undetected."

The village staff and elected officials worked with Hevesi’s office throughout the summer and implemented all the of recommendations listed in the audit report, Stevens said.

The village is also planning to do some work on the intersection of Swift Road and Route 85A across from the Voorheesville Elementary School.

"It’s a difficult entrance and exit," Stevens said. "We had a study done by Barton & Loguidice and we are looking to correct the highway. It’s a steep decline."

Stevens said the project has been estimated to cost a half-million dollars. The village has also looked to see if it can receive a grant or state money for the project.

Stevens and the village board also looked at how to make the railroad crossing near the Voorheesville Diner safer.

"We received grant money in order to correct the gates so they come down in both lanes of traffic. We want to improve the safety. We have a lot of people who walk to the post office. It’s in the works and should be ready to go by the summer of next year."

"It’s a lot of little things," Stevens said of Voorheesville’s accomplishments in 2005. "The biggest thing that happened was the changes to the well system. If anything happend to our water, we would all be heading to Nichols’ Market to get bottled water."


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