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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 13, 2006

Teen sentenced for slashing

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — A hefty sentence hand down June 30 for a 15-year-old male leads to questions on the difference between a pocket knife and a weapon and on what age can someone can purchase such an item.

Jallah McCall, 15, was sentenced to three to six years in state prison by Albany County Court Judge Thomas A. Breslin, for a December, 2005, slashing in the parking lot of Crossgates Mall, according to the Albany County District Attorney’s Office. McCall, who was 14 at the time, was arrested by Guilderland Police for slashing another man in the face at the mall’s bus stop, causing severe lacerations.

McCall pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree assault, a class B felony. In pleading guilty to the charge, McCall waived his youthful offender status and was tried as an adult.

In a statement released by District Attorney David Soares’s office, McCall alledgedly purchased a knife at Crossgates Mall, and, during an argument with his victim, McCall slashed another man’s face, causing "permanent scarring, swelling, and bruising."

"I saw the lacerations, the injuries were pretty horrific," said Soares’s spokeswoman Rachel McEneny.

Assistant District Attorney Shannon Sarfoh told The Enterprise that the store where McCall actually purchased the knife could not be substantiated, but that she believed he did not produce identification to purchase the knife.

Sarfoh described the knife as a "hunting-type folding knife."

Soares’s said in the release that he was concerned that a 14-year-old purchased a "weapon" in Crossgates Mall, and said, "This violent act has left one youth’s face scarred and the other sentenced to spend a great deal of time in state prison."

There is no specific New York State Law banning minors from purchasing pocket knives.

Glass Works and Mill Hill progres

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — Dealing with major re-zoneing and development issues around Guilderland, the town board on Tuesday received impact documents on a $100 million mixed-use development, re-zoned five lots on Spawn Road, and approved amendments to the Mill Hill Planned Unit Development application.

The proposed $100 million development called "The Glass Works Village," a name suggested by town historian Alice Begley, is slated to include 345 condominiums along with 195,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, a village green, a nature preserve, and three parks on 57 acres off of Windingbrook Road and Western Avenue.

The term "Glass Works" is a reference to the town’s historic glass-making factory, which pre-dated the Revolutionary War, and was of the first major industrial outfits in North America.

The project is proposed by Atlantic Pacific Properties, Platform Reality Group, and DRA of Troy, which sent representatives to Tuesday night’s town board meeting to present the town with scoping documents.

The scoping documents lay out the various impacts that Glass Works project will have on the town including environmental, traffic, community, as well as economic and financial.

"I thought the documents were very thorough," Supervisor Kenneth Runion told The Enterprise.

Copies of the scoping documents were also sent to various New York State and Albany County agencies, including the state’s departments of transportation, environmental conservation, and health, and the county’s planning board and department of health, as well as the Pine Bush Preserve Commission and the local town agencies.

The scoping documents will be available to the public at the Guilderland Public Library and the Altamont Free Library and on the town’s website. Public comments will be added to scoping documents until Sept. 15, according to Runion.

The project will need a zoning change, site-plan approval, and various zoning permits before The Glass Works Village can become a reality.

"This is a unique project that will create a hamlet atmosphere," said Joseph Sausto, an attorney for Platform Reality Group. "Although it will have a positive impact on the town’s tax base, it will have minimal impacts on the residents."

Sausto told the board that, according to preliminary traffic studies, a traffic light would not be put in on Western Avenue because of the proximity to other lights on the busy roadway.

The town board members accepted the documents and then made their own comments on the project.

Board member Mike Ricard told the Glass Works representatives to be very thorough when gathering neighborhood input on the project, citing problem that the YMCA had in building in that particular area. Ricard warned that residential input would be vital to the planning process for such a large project.

"I am interested to see how the project’s going to integrate itself with the rest of the neighborhood," said board member David Bosworth.

Bosworth said he was concerned with the scope of the project and wanted to know what direct impact on the town would result from such a project.

"Where will this take us" Will it take us to the City of Guilderland"" Bosworth questioned the development’s representatives. Saying that he doubts the impact would be that dramatic, Bosworth stated that careful planning was necessary for the Glass Works Village to be compatible with the town’s master plan.

"What will this do for our way of life"" he asked.

"Is your traffic study going to take into account for people visiting the commercial sections of the project"" questioned board member Patricia Slavick.

"Yes"They’re all based on different peak hours," responded Sausto. "We are able to calculate the different uses at different times."

Runion said he wanted to make sure the project is not an "isolated circle," but fully integrated with walkable features.

"I would like to see a better integration with the library and the elementary school," said Runion. "I’d rather see some walkable features that encourage people to leave their cars"The key of this project it to get people to leave their cars in the garage and walk to a local shop."

Runion and Bosworth both agreed that Guilderland is in the midst of a balancing act between commercialization and residential housing in order to ensure the town’s tax base is not overburdened by residential drain or under-funded from lack of business. Runion asked for an extensive economic impact study to be done for the project to determine the actual benefit to the town.

The board unanimously adopted the scoping documents for public viewing and discussion.

Mill Hill

The Mill Hill retirement community project has been in the works for nearly 20 years after several setbacks and amendments, and a change of ownership.

The board granted the proposed amendments with a stipulation that a Stewart’s shop, planned as part of the development, not be built to look like most Stewart’s shops, but instead be built to blend in with the surrounding area.

"We are asking the planning and zoning boards to pay close attention to the features of the store," Runion told The Enterprise yesterday, saying the other town boards will have to approve the store’s design before it can get site approval as part of the development. "The board feels the typical Stewart’s building does not fit in with that community."

The amendments for the Mill Hill development include: lowering the entry-age from 65 to 55; reducing the density in phases one two and three of the project; eliminating 81 units from the project; increasing the open green space from 12.5 to 15 acres; increasing the passive-use green space from 18.4 to 18.5 acres; proposing a ground lease to Stewart’s; and donating eight acres of land to the town for park use off of Johnston Road.

The biggest sticking point between Mill Hill representatives and the town board was the design of the purposed Stewart’s shop

"I think that’s a pretty substantial issue," said Bosworth. "Like the Walgreens store, the look of the store is a major considereation."

Bosworth added that a standard Stewart’s store would simply not "cut it" in the Johnston Road area.

"We represent the people of Guilderland and clearly there is a great sensitivity to commercialization," Bosworth told Mill Hill representatives, who responded by saying that, if Stewart’s could not comply, the development could carry out its plans without the store.

"I think it’s favorable to have a place for people to get everyday things like milk, bread, aspirin, etc.," said Runion.

The board unanimously adopted the changes.

Other business

In other business, the town board unanimously:

— Voted to re-zone 3011 to 3015 Spawn Road from General Business to R-15, which is a residential zone with a minimum of 15,000 square-feet.

Runion told The Enterprise that the re-zone was brought to his attention through a petition and was passed to created a buffer between business zones and the residential neighborhood.

Town planner Jan Weston is working on a zoning study of the area between Spawn and Lone Pine roads;

— Authorized the naming of the Western Turnpike access road as Arthur’s Place;

— Authorized a transfer of $32,000 from Water Reserve Account for replacement of granulated activated carbon units at the town’s water treatment plant;

— Instituted a "no truck" except for local delivery policy on Pauline Avenue as recommended by the Traffic Safety Committee;

— Authorized a pedestrian crosswalk on Wormer Road to accommodate pedestrians of the Albany Country Club as recommended by the Traffic Safety Committee;

— Accepted sidewalk and sewer easements at 3761 Carman Road;

— Approved a temporary appointment of Cory Nichols to Paramedic Supervisor to fill a vacant position, which was due to an employee disability, and provisionally appointed Jason Yourdon from part-time paramedic to full-time paramedic;

— Authorized the supervisor to bid for installation of sidewalks on Carman Road between Lone Pine and Coons roads; and

— Accepted utilities and roads within the Saddlebrook subdivision pursuant to a letter of the town designated engineer.

ZBA Permits
Live music to spark teen hangout on Route 155

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — With summer in full stride, many Guilderland teens who are looking for a place to hang out and have some fun may be hard-pressed to name such a place.

Phil Atwood hopes to change that.

As the owner of Sparky’s Pizza and Ice Cream Café on Route 155, Atwood applied to the town’s zoning board for a special-use permit to allow live music, catered to teens, on Friday and Saturday nights. The live music would be provided by local "garage bands" for their friends, he said.

"There’s a lack in the area I think, for kids to go, particularly now that Crossgates has put their sanctions on age limits," Atwood told the zoning board last Wednesday. The mall requires those under 18 to be accompanied by a parent or guardian after 4 p.m. on Fridays and Saturday s.

"I wanted to have a place for kids to go on any given Friday or Saturday night where they could stop in an alcohol-free, non-smoking, non-aggressive environment," said Atwood.

Atwood wants to have live entertainment at his restaurant from 9 to 11 p.m. every Friday night with occasional Saturday-night shows as well.

The zoning board unanimously approved the special-use permit with a stipulation that, if noise ever became an issue, then the permit would be reviewed and Atwood would have to appear before the board again. Also, no outdoor speakers or broadcasting will be allowed for the live music.

"The music will be indoor only, right"" zoning board chairman, Peter Barber, asked Atwood during the meeting. Barber said he liked the idea and that his only major concern was noise levels affecting nearby residential neighborhoods.

"There’s a very large berm behind the building," Atwood answered, adding, "It seems like a very controllable situation."

Atwood assured the board that there will be no outside speakers and that all of the live music will be confined and maintained within the restaurant on 5 New Karner Road.

"I don’t have a problem with what you’re trying to do," said Barber, but added that, if the weekly event grew to be very successful and became a big occurrence, then he asked if Atwood would be willing to come back and revisit the issue.

Atwood said he had no objections and was willing to work with the board.

"I guess I hope it does, but it’s not like we’re looking to bring in the Stones or anything like that," said Atwood. "I’m not really limiting myself to that particular demographic of people, because, in fact, when it comes down to it, if I could find a band that could pull off a mean lick of string of pearls; I’d bring them in too."

Barber asked the town’s chief building inspector and zoning administrator, Donald Cropsy, if there were any issues regarding parking.

"There’s plenty of parking. The bank closes around five and the doctor’s office closes around then, too," said Cropsy, who cited 60 parking spaces surround the plaza where the store is located on Route 155 and added that Rite Aide closes at 9 p.m. and those spaces would also be available.

Alternative board member Thomas Remmert, filling in for fellow absent member Susan Cupoli, advised Atwood to see Guilderland’s chief fire inspector, Donald Albright, about the legal capacity for people in the store. Remmert said that capacity limits for venues are determined through a number of variables such as square footage of the site, number of parking spaces, and the number of seats the business has.

"I definitely always wanted to play by the rules," said Atwood. "[Sparky’s] is well within the area of Guilderland, so teenagers wouldn’t have to drive into Albany or Colonie to find a place where they could enjoy themselves."

Board member Charles Klaer, who is typically the board’s only dissenter, also agreed with the idea.

"The whole neighborhood has been put on notice and, if there’s a noise issue, we can revisit this, so I’m in favor," he said.

The board then made a unanimous decision to grant the special use permit, after which Klaer joked that he now wanted a free ice cream cone.

Other business

In other business, the zoning board unanimously:

— Granted a special-use permit as well as parking and side-yard variances for Robert Sumatric to convert a single-family house into an office for his business, Genetic Computers, on 2244 Western Ave. Sumatric is going to convert a 994-square-foot home into a professional office for his computer business, which he describes as an on-site consulting, security, and hardware implementation business.

"Very rarely would I have customers come to my office; it’s mostly on-site work," said Sumatric. He added that most people are looking for wireless networks for their businesses and homes and that he usually only has one U.P.S. or FedEx delivery to his office each week. Barber described Sumatric’s business as "light use," and said parking should not be an issue, citing a lack of employees.

Genetic Computers is zoned Business Non-Professional Retail;

— Granted Bruce Hering a special-use permit and a parking variance for his 3418 Carman Road computer software store. Hering is allowed to build a 12-foot by 50-foot addition onto his building, which will provide for an additional five office spaces, he said at the meeting. Hering has nine full-time and three part-time employees and is also creating five additional parking spaces to the building’s lot.

Klaer suggested that Hering replant additional landscaping after removing two large spruce trees for the parking lot, saying it would "ease some heartache from the neighborhood." Landscaping will also be used to buffer any additional lighting created by cars in the parking lot;

— Postponed granting a sign variance for Nuri Ozbay at 1611 Western Ave., which board members described as "the old gas station in front of Crossgates." Ozbay wants to put up two signs, which will be 24 square feet each.

"The sign seem too big," said Barber, who asked to postpone the variance request until more information was gathered;

— Granted a special-use permit and area variance for Bethel Gospel Church at 7315 Route 158;

— Granted a special-use permit and area variance for Guilderland Agency on 1807-1809 Western Ave.; and

— Granted a one-year extension to the Albany Curling Club on McKown Road.

New leaders govern split board

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — The school board elected its leaders Tuesday with split votes and then split again when a new member proposed spending money on programs not included in the budget.

Richard Weisz, a lawyer who has served on the board for six years, was elected president over Barbara Fraterrigo, a nine-year member who works managing the office for her physician husband.

"I have a very collegial view of our board as a whole," said Fraterrigo before the vote. "We have become more active participants," she said of board members, calling that "a good direction for the board."

Weisz told board members he sees the role of president as being a "facilitator." He said he would focus on building consensus as opposed to picking a particular agenda.

He also said he hoped the board would shape policy pro-actively rather than just reacting.

"The board is lucky they have two fine candidates," he concluded.

The nine board members then filled out paper ballots, which were counted by Clerk Linda Livingston, who presided over the meeting until the new president was elected. Weisz won by a vote of 5 to 4.

The board’s former leaders, President Gene Danese and Vice President Linda Bakst, had retired at the close of their terms. Each had served in those posts for one year. Bakst had run against Danese for president; after she lost, she bested Fraterrigo for the vice president’s spot.

This year, Weisz made his first run for a leadership position on the board. After the meeting, when The Enterprise asked Weisz why he wanted to be president, he said, "I thought I could help channel the board into my idea of identifying goals we share with the staff and move the district more cooperatively."

Once the president was elected, nominations were taken for the vice president. Peter Golden nominated Fraterrigo. Colleen O’Connell nominated John Dornbush, a seven-year member who is associate director for student lending in the financial aid office at the University at Albany. Dornbush, making his first run for an office on the board, won by a vote of 5 to 4.

Asked yesterday about his goals as vice president, Dornbush said, "My role is to support Dick. I supported him for the presidency."

He went on, "We’re aligned on trying to build consensus on the board, to keep meetings flowing smoothly, and to see that all sides are heard."

For the upcoming year, Dornbush said, "I’d like us to look at our science, math, and technology offerings, not that we’re lacking but there has been concern expressed in the community."

The Enterprise this spring ran a letter to the editor from the parent of a Guilderland High School student concerned that her son wouldn’t be able to take an Advanced Placement computer programming class next year because none was offered. The superintendent responded that enrollment was too low and it may be offered in alternate years.

Dornbush went on about goals in the upcoming year, "Social studies and language arts review is now going on within the faculty." Budget proposals in recent years, ultimately rejected by the board, included consolidating the supervisor’s posts for those two departments and adding to the English teachers’ course load.

Maverick motion

After the board worked its way through a long list of appointments for the new year during the reorganizational meeting Tuesday, it went on to hold a regular session.

At the end of that session, close to 9:30 p.m., one of the new board members, Hy Dubowsky, made a proposal that took several members aback.

Dubowsky, the economic development director for the state’s Department of Labor, said that most people recognize the Guilderland School District as a good school district but it is important to be a great school district.

Before voters passed a $79 million budget in May, the school district estimated it would bring a 4.1-percent tax hike for Guilderland residents.

Dubowsky proposed keeping the rate hike at 4.1 percent but spending up to $200,000 for "enhanced educational services."
He itemized these as: up to $25,000 for enriching music and art; up to $25,000 for Advanced Placement computer science; up to $30,000 for security cameras in the high school; up to $50,000 for expanding the high-school writing program; up to $30,000 for evaluating language arts; and up to $40,000 for a pilot program, teaching foreign language in the elementary schools.

Dubowsky’s motion was seconded by Denise Eisele, the other new board member. She and Dubowsky campaigned together, winning this May in a five-way race for three seats. The third seat was retained by incumbent Weisz.

Weisz asked Superintendent Gregory Aidala if, legally, the board could increase the amount to be spent after the budget had been passed.

"We have an obligation to stay in the $79 million limit," said Aidala. He also said, "The budget is a spending plan," and $200,000 could legally come from elsewhere in the budget.

Dubowsky said the district is "sitting on" an unallocated $1.4 million surplus, a reference to the district’s fund balance.

Board member Cathy Barber asked Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders about the legal status of the fund balance. "Is this money we could spend on programs for next year"" she asked.

Sanders replied that the fund balance could be used to lower the tax rate, which the board sets in August.

In June, the board debated at length what to do with a $400,000 surplus in the fund balance. The rainy-day account would have totaled $1.99 million by the end of the year, which would have been over the 2 percent of next year’s budget allowed by the state.

While some school-board members in June said the money should be returned to the taxpayers, the majority prevailed, in split votes, determining the surplus would be put into reserve funds — $100,000 into a tax certiorari reserve fund, and $300,000 into a newly-created retirement contribution reserve fund.

On Tuesday, board member Thomas Nachod called Dubowsky’s motion "out of order." He said, "None of us have any of the background."

"Most of the proposals...whether they’re good ideas or not, they need to be taken apart and looked at separately," said Dornbush.

O’Connell told Dubowsky she hoped this kind of motion or "discussion by ambush" was not going to be his trademark.

She indicated he should have informed board members ahead about his proposal.

She went on to say that the fund balance is not an "excess fund" and that dipping below the state-allowed 2 percent would leave the district without a buffer.

"It’s a place to start," said Golden. He also said, "These are tax moneys we thought we were going to spend...We could return it to the taxpayers...."

Aidala said Dubowsky’s proposal "undermines a long-time process we’ve had in place and sends the wrong message to our constituents."

He described the budget process as involving the community and called Dubowsky’s proposal "after the fact."

"Here it is July," said Aidala. "We’re opening the new school year...These are the kind of discussions that should take place as part of the budget process."

The board has a policy not to vote on motions at the same meeting where they are first introduced unless a two-thirds majority agrees.

Weisz said the board could vote on Dubowsky’s motion at its next meeting, Aug. 15, after it had some guidance as to whether it is legal to increase spending by $200,000.

"You’re assuming there’s consensus to put this on the agenda," objected O’Connell.

"Can we make a motion on what we want on the agenda"" asked Nachod.

"How can we reject the motion without voting on it"" asked Weisz.

Fraterrigo said she believed that, according to Robert’s Rules of Order, once a board member makes a motion and it is seconded, it goes forward to a vote.

"You can’t force a vote on an illegal action," said Barber.

Golden said he wanted to know how much can legally be returned to taxpayers.

"We’ll get a report back Aug. 15 and go from there," said Weisz.

"We really need to clarify what board discussion is," said Aidala. "We work to be well prepared..."

Countryfest gets hot and cold response

By Saranac Hale Spencer

ALTAMONT — WGNA’s 13th annual Countryfest was a hot-ticket Saturday at the Altamont fairgrounds, with fans pouring in from all over the Capital Region, some of whom got burned by counterfeit tickets.

Colonie Police arrested Michael Pfau, of Schenectady, on May 17 for selling tickets he had stolen from Printing Services of New York Inc., where he works, said John Banalstyne of the Colonie Police Department this week. Banalstyne told The Enterprise that printers make plenty of extra tickets to events in advance and seal them in plastic, in case something happens to the primary batch.

"He took a whole wrap of 2,000," said Banalstyne, adding that police recovered most of the illegal tickets. He said that police got a call from someone who had bought a legitimate ticket and compared it to a ticket that her friend had bought without knowing it was counterfeit. Police charged Pfau with forgery, a felony.

Both Banalstyne and Selena Dutcher, marketing director for WGNA, said that this wasn’t a common problem. "This is the first time I’ve run into something like this," said Banalstyne. Dutcher told The Enterprise that this was the first time that this had happened at Countryfest.

WGNA considered the event a "huge success," said Dutcher. She said that it was also good for Altamont. "Stewart’s and Ketchum’s were selling out of beverages by 10 in the morning," she said.

Estimates of the size of the crowd went from 28,000, according to Bob Santorelli, president of the Altamont Fair’s board of directors, to 35,000, according to Anthony Salerno, Altamont’s public safety commissioner.

Either way, it was the largest crowd that has been at the fairgrounds at one time, Santorelli told The Enterprise on Monday. The second-largest crowd was Countryfest in 1994, which drew 22,000 fans, he said.

When the crowd filled the fair’s parking lots to capacity this year, organizers used the back-up plan, said Salerno. The parking lots at Guilderland high school were used for overflow and concert goers were shuttled to the fairgrounds. Parked cars and trucks also lined many village streets.

"It pays the bills," said Santorelli of events like Countryfest. The fair rents out its grounds to a variety of groups for events ranging from animal shows to Irish and Scottish festivals. The tri-city fair uses its grounds for just one week in August each year.

"There are only three events that I don’t like," Rosemary McGowan, an Altamont resident who lives next to the fairgrounds, told The Enterprise this week. She didn’t like last year’s Celticfest, last week’s Fox23fest, or Saturday’s Countryfest, because they were too loud. She had to take her collection of knick-knacks off of their shelf on Saturday because the bass from Countryfest’s music was shaking her house, she said.

"I’m not saying ‘Don’t have the music’," McGowan said. "I just don’t like it that loud." She suggested that the village could look into a noise ordinance or construct a baffle fence, which would help contain the noise on the fairgrounds.

"They bit off more than they can chew," she said, referring to Countryfest and the crowds that it brought. "I don’t think that as a village we’re set up for 30,000 people," she said.

"I believe it could be a problem if it’s not properly managed," said Salerno of the crowd. He said that he and the village had anticipated large numbers and began planning for the event over two months ago.

All 10 officers in the Altamont police force were on duty as well as six Guilderland officers, eight State Troopers, and four Albany County Sheriff’s deputies, Salerno told The Enterprise. He said that there were no arrests at the event or in the village.

"I hate to sound like my father," said Eric Marczak, who was at the show, "but they were a bunch of wild animals." He was appalled at the behavior of concert-goers, saying that they were there to drink beer, not listen to music.

He wrote in a letter to the Enterprise editor this week about concert-goers urinating in horse stalls and stealing cell phones.

"It didn’t have the feel of the fair or even the Irish Fest," said Marczak, comparing it to other events held at the fairgrounds.

Marczak said that he liked the music and the tickets — $28 in advance, $33 at the gate — were a good price for six major country acts. After attending the event at the fairgrounds, though, he said, "I’d pay a little bit more to see it at the Palace or SPAC."

"I think it was a very well coordinated event," said Mayor James Gaughan. He also said that he is open to suggestions from the community about handling future events at the fair. He is looking for "improvement opportunities," he said, "including addressing the noise."

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