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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, May 10, 2007

‘Affordable community’ right on target for developer

By Rachel Dutil

NEW SCOTLAND – Howard Amsler, owner and operator of Blackbird Prime Properties in New Scotland, has been working since 2001 to develop what he calls "a community with affordable housing."

On Tuesday, Amsler was shoveling dirt over a new drainage pipe in the parking area between his two properties on Route 85. He climbed off his backhoe to tell The Enterprise that Blackbird Prime Properties "reaches out to everyone." It offers housing that fits the needs of different people, he said.

The 33.6-acre trailer park was visibly and audibly under construction, and Amsler said that the residents living there are excited about the upgrades to the property. "They love it," he said.

When completed, the property will have two entrances – one private entrance leading to the residences, and the other a commercial entrance. He also plans to include some landscaping around the front of the property, he said.

Archery on target

Part of the renovations include leasing space to Flying Arrows Sports, which plans to open up a 5,000-square-foot sporting-goods store and an indoor archery range in early June.

The main office for Blackbird Prime Properties is located within the building that was formerly Kissel’s Garage; Flying Arrows Sports III will open on the right side of the building.

The store sells merchandise for archery, fishing, camping, and paintball, but will also have an indoor archery shooting range. Customers can participate in three-dimensional techno hunts; with a moving Kevlar screen that scores hunting skills based on how and where the animal is hit, Amsler explained. It will also offer paper shoots and three-dimensional shoots from an elevated platform, he said.

The planning board, last Tuesday, had no issues with Amsler’s proposal for commercial recreation with the archery range.

The town’s zoning and planning boards, and the building department, Amsler said, have been "very understanding." He has worked together with them to keep New Scotland "the rural community it still is," he said, adding that, even though his property falls within a commercial district, he has tried to keep the commercial appearance at a minimum.

Transforming the trailer park

Amsler’s site-plan review for entrance and site revision was approved by the town in June of 2006, but he needed to receive approval from the Department of Transportation to make the modifications to the entrance to his property.

Blackbird Prime Properties has 86 approved lots that are rented to the residents, sized 50-by-100 feet, or 80-by-100 feet, he said. His objective, he said, is to eventually have 86 new manufactured homes in the park. He presently has 35 mobile homes, eight new manufactured homes, and 35 available lots, he told The Enterprise.

Amsler recently purchased the building on the corner of routes 85 and 85A adjacent to Blackbird Prime Properties; he plans to renovate and use it as office space to sell manufactured homes, and will also rent office space, he said.

The manufactured homes will include modular, singlewide, and doublewide homes; a display yard will be situated between the two properties, he said. Modular homes will start at $96,000; and the singlewide and doublewide homes will start at $45,000, Amsler told The Enterprise.

The lots are equipped with underground cable, phone, and electric lines, as well as natural gas, Amsler said. The community, he said, provides "a place for our seniors to go." Many of the residents at Blackbird Prime Properties are elderly, he said.

The real enjoyment in retirement, Amsler said, is having the ability "to do what you want with your life."

Blackbird Prime Properties, though, reaches out to people in varying age groups and income levels, Amsler said. "We don’t want to push anyone away" We want to reach out to everyone," he said.

When all the renovations are done, "It’s going to be really nice," Amsler said of the property. "I’m very happy with the progress they are allowing us to make," he said of the town’s cooperation.

Amsler said he is proud to be able to offer affordable housing to the residents of New Scotland. "I’m very excited to be able to serve the community," he concluded.

Other business

In other business at recent planning- and zoning-board meetings:

– The zoning board heard from John DeMis from New Salem Properties, requesting 1,000 feet of relief to extend an existing cul-de-sac to a total length of 2,000 feet to serve a five-lot subdivision in a residential-agricultural (RA) district. The subdivision is accessed from New Salem South Road by traveling over Glenwood Terrace and Meadowbrook Place. The cul-de-sac will be constructed off of Meadowbrook Place starting about 868 feet from New Salem South Road. The board scheduled a public hearing for its May 29 meeting;

– The zoning and planning boards heard from Peter Landi on his applications for a temporary-use permit and an area variance for his property at the intersection of Font Grove and Krum Kill roads, in a residential conservation (R2) district. Landi intends to subdivide the 13.8-acre parcel into two lots, one nine acres, and the other 4.8 acres.

The nine-acre lot would be sold with the existing 140-year-old house. The 4.8-acre lot would house an existing accessory structure which is not permitted without a dwelling. Landi plans to build a new home on the smaller lot, at which point, the shed would be allowed.

Landi is also seeking 11 feet of relief from the front yard setback for the existing home, which is only 39 feet from the road; the zone requires a 50-feet front yard setback. A public hearing is scheduled for the May 29 zoning board meeting;

– The zoning and planning boards heard from Arnold Abate for 11 feet of relief from the side-yard setback to allow an attached roof covering a patio at his Elizabeth Drive property, located in a residential agriculture district. The roof, which is already constructed, comes within 14 feet of the side-yard property line, and is about six to 12 inches shorter than the patio itself. Abate said he didn’t realize he needed a building permit to construct the roof. A public hearing is scheduled for the May 29 zoning board meeting;

– The planning and zoning boards heard from David Zwack, requesting a use variance to continue operating his business, Zwack’s Decorative Natural Stone, on his properties on Indian Ledge Road and Zwack Lane. Zwack removes, stores, and sells limestone on of his property, and has done so since the early 1990s.

Zwack first submitted an appeal to the building inspector’s decision of a special-use permit application submitted by Zwack for the "removal of fill, gravel or loam," and is continuing with the appeal if the use variance is not granted. All of his neighbors submitted letters to the town in favor of Zwack’s business. A public hearing is scheduled for the May 29 zoning-board meeting. The planning board passed on a favorable recommendation to the zoning board for the use variance, and a recommendation that the building inspector’s decision be upheld for the appeal;

– The planning board heard from David Moreau on a revised application for a boundary-line adjustment between two parcels on Youmans Road. Moreau is proposing to merge 14.11 acres of land to another property he owns, creating an 18.83-acre parcel, and a 39.11-acre parcel. Moreau intends to sell the 18-acre parcel to an individual for a single-family dwelling.

The parcels need to be reviewed to determine whether there are any federal wetlands on the site, and, if so, a protection plan needs to be established, said Keith Menia, of Stantec Consulting Services, the town’s engineering firm. Moreau will also need to supply some funds to the town to cover the costs for reviewing the storm-water management plan. A public hearing was scheduled for the June 5 meeting; and

– The planning board heard from Karl Dedrick for a special-use permit to allow for the construction of a single-family dwelling on his lot on Youmans Road, located within the commercial district. The 2.86-acre parcel was granted a special-use permit for construction of a home, but the permit has expired. The parcel was originally owned by Moreau, who sold it to someone else, who then sold to Dedrick. Dedrick was under the impression, upon purchasing the property, that he could build a home on the lot. The board scheduled a public hearing for its June 5 meeting.

Flashing lights signal speed limit

By Rachel Dutil

VOORHEESVILLE – Development brings with it more than new homes and new residents; it also creates more traffic.

Voorheesville’s middle school and high school are located on Route 85 A, which has had an influx of new homes and added traffic in recent years. The 40-mile-per-hour speed limit was recently scaled back to 30 for the stretch of road in front of the school, and, on Monday, the school board agreed to pay $1,200 per year for maintenance fees associated with a flashing light indicating the reduced speed in the school zone.

Superintendent Linda Langevin said that she noticed the new 30-mile-per-hour speed limit sign as she drove into work on Monday morning. On Wednesday, the Albany County Sheriff’s Department installed a temporary flashing marquee, advising drivers of the speed change and to drive with caution, Langevin said.

Most drivers are traveling faster than 40 miles per hour on the roadway, especially when coming up the hill where the school sits, Langevin said.

The flashing lights approved by the school board would be similar to the signs on 85 A in front of the Voorheesville Elementary School, and on Route 155 in Guilderland in front of Farnsworth Middle School.

Michael Goyer, the district’s superintendent of operations, maintenance, and transportation, told the board that the lights would be controlled by the district, so that, unlike the signs at Farnsworth Middle School, the lights could be turned off when school is not in session.

Because of the road’s speed limit, the road is relatively unsafe to cross, which created numerous concerns for parents, especially those with children who walk to school, said high-school Principal Mark Diefendorf.

Some parents, Diefendorf said, have requested that a crosswalk be installed. In order for a crosswalk to become a reality, he said, there needs to be a sidewalk on either side of it. It is an issue that "may be considered," he said.

"We’ll see what happens with the flashing lights," Diefendorf told The Enterprise.

"I think the blinking lights will help a great deal," Langevin said. "I’m sure people will respect it," she added of the lower speed limit.

Diefendorf said he was aware of only one accident, about two years ago, when a student was pulling out of the school’s parking lot and was hit by an oncoming car. No one was hurt in that accident, he said.

The concern in this case, he said, is for the students who walk to school. "Getting the child safely across the street is the most important issue," Diefendorf said.

The school will "be safer if we can get cars to slow down," Diefendorf said. "Flashing lights will publicize that" We’re very committed to making it a safe area," he said.

School scores

At Monday’s board meeting, Associate Principal Michael Paolino gave a presentation on statewide test results for the district.

The results speak "to the commitment of the teachers in the district," Paolino said. Paolino’s compliment to the district teachers came not long after the board awarded tenure to nine teachers, and praised the work of eight retiring teachers, who had worked for the district for more than 200 years combined.

"The board feels very, very excited about these teachers," school-board President David Gibson said of the newly tenured teachers.

"We all grew up together and grew old together," said long-time board member, C. James Coffin, currently the board’s vice president, regarding the retiring teachers.

Paolino then went over test scores for the district, in which Voorheesville scored very well.

"Voorheesville students in the eighth-grade obtained the highest mean score on their ELA [English Language Arts] and math assessments," Paolino said.

The number of students acquiring mastery level test scores on the United States history and government Regents exam, he said, has increased by 117 percent over the past five years.

The French foreign language Regents exam had a100-percent passing rate, he said, and 90 percent of the students were at mastery level.

He went on to say that the state standard graduation rate is 55 percent, and Voorheesville’s graduation rate is 93 percent. The state now requires all but a very few special education students to pass five Regents exams to graduate from high school.

Of the 120 students who graduated from Voorheesville in 2006, he said, 92 percent graduated with a Regents diploma; 55 percent with a Regents diploma with advanced designation; 26 percent with a Regents diploma with advanced designation with honors.

Sixty-eight percent of the 2006 graduating class enrolled in a four-year college; 22 percent enrolled in a two-year college; 3 percent enlisted in the military; and 7 percent were undecided, Paolino told the board.

Other business

In other business at Monday’s board of education meeting, the board:

– Approved substitute teacher appointments for the 2006-07 school year presented by the Capital Region Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) substitute registry;

– Approved the creation of a new bus route, effective May 8, to provide transportation for two special-needs children;

– Allowed Paul Barrowman to prepare three voting machines for the school budget and election and the public library budget vote on Tuesday, May 15, at a cost of $35 per machine;

– Approved requests for 73 students to be transported to non-public schools for the 2007-08 school year;

– Approved a contract with the North Colonie Central School District for health services to be provided to five students who live in the Voorheesville district who attend schools in the North Colonie School District, at a cost of $390.24 per student;

– Approved two out-of-town field trips: a senior class trip to Jenkinson’s Beach in Point Pleasant, N.J. on Monday, June 11, at a cost of $30 per student; and a trip to Sedan, France as part of the France exchange program from Nov. 7 through Nov. 18, at an estimated cost of $1,500 per student;

– Awarded the bid for three Chevrolet Suburbans, pending voter approval on May 15, to Joe Basil Chevrolet in Depew, N.Y.;

– Awarded tenure to elementary Principal Kenneth Lein, effective July 1, as well as to nine teachers whose tenure will become effective on Sept. 1, 2007 – Melissa Green, in elementary education; Joan Baron, in special education; Brenda Clair, in elementary education; Jennifer Zeh, in elementary education; Stephen Matthew Fiato, in physical education; Lynn Kelly, an English teacher; Mary E. Kelly, an earth science teacher; Martha Kemp, in school psychology; and Kelly McHale, a biology teacher;

– Recognized eight retiring teachers – Richard Freyer, Susanne Hudacs, Mary Jackstadt, Thomas Kurkjian, Patricia Lambert, Linda Spina, Estelle Sullivan, and Janice Wysocki;

– Approved the memorandum of understanding between the district and the Voorheesville Teachers’ Association to allow teachers who have exercised their right to receive the retirement incentive effective June 30, 2007, to continue to be eligible to have their children attend school in the district as if the retiring teacher were still employed with the district;

– Approved recognizing the positions of district technology coordinator; director of special education; and the superintendent of buildings and grounds, and supervisor for transportation under the collective bargaining agreement, effective July 1;

– Extended the probationary period of technology teacher Kyle Turski for an additional year, ending on June 30, 2008. A district parent, during the portion of the meeting open for public comment, told the board that Turski "has been very helpful," and even suggested that the board forego an extended probationary period, and give him tenure. A student also chipped in saying, "He’s always there for his students";

– Amended the 2006-07 budget to allow for donations of $357.99 and $240 to be added. The elementary school was given $357.99 from Target Take Charge of Education, and the Extra-Mile Award Program was awarded $240 from the Voorheesville Community and School Foundation;

– Approved a license agreement between the district and Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation for use of its land for access during the building project at the elementary school. The land runs along the west side of the building, and it will be necessary for contractors to cross the land to get to the staging area;

– Approved a contract for placement of a disabled Voorheesville student in the Guilderland Central School District’s skills development program from Feb. 12, through June 22, at a cost of $16,408;

– Announced that the budget vote and board election will be held on Tuesday, May 15, from 2 to 9:30 p.m. in the middle-school foyer; a volunteer reception for the Extra-Mile Awards will be held on Monday, June 11, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the high-school commons preceding the school board meeting;

– Accepted the retirement of Molly Hoyt-Fowler, senior keyboard specialist, effective Sept. 23; and

– Entered into executive session to discuss negotiated agreements and current litigation.

Walter tiptoes to Tulip Court

By Jo E. Prout

VOORHEESVILLE — The Hilltowns’ Meaghan Walter is living out one dream and trying to reach another as she serves on the court at the Tulip Festival in Albany.

"It hasn’t hit me yet," Walter said.

Walter, 20, said that women between 18 and 25 years old who want to serve on the tulip court must be nominated. While she recovered from an injury recently, Walter’s mother nominated her to cheer her up.

As a child, she had told her mother, "I want to be one of those girls one day. I want girls to look up to me." Unable to restrain her exuberance, Walter added, "Oh my goodness, this is wonderful."

Walter graduated from Berne-Knox-Westerlo High School and now lives and works in Voorheesville. She is a full-time preschool teacher who studies early childhood education at Hudson Valley Community College part-time.

She said that she has not entered pageants before.

"The most I’ve done is show horses at the Altamont Fair," Walter said. She was nominated, and made a member of the Tulip Court, because of her work in the community, she said.

Walter has taught Sunday School and worked at the food pantry at Westerlo Baptist Church. She helped with blood drives and benefit walks while in high school.

"This isn’t a beauty pageant at all," Walter said about the Tulip Festival Court. "It’s about community service, reaching out to the community, and your intelligence. The experience I’m going to have will benefit me in the future, especially with the children."

The purpose of the court, she said, is to promote Mayor Gerald Jennings’s literacy program.

"Our job is to be ambassadors to the community. We are the mayor’s representatives of literacy. We volunteer our time at events like the Winter Festival and Alive at Five," she said. "Our main job is to reach out to the youth."

A committee will choose a queen from the five Tulip Court members, by determining, through interviews and at receptions, which of them has leadership qualities as well as the ability to work as a team, Walter said.

"I’m extremely happy to be on the court," she said. "If chosen queen, I’d be project manager to many events. I would love to show the girls my ideas." If she were queen, Walter said, she would be "the one the girls come to if they have a problem."

Walter said that the Tulip Festival, which celebrates Albany’s rich Dutch heritage, began Wednesday with tours through Washington Park. Today will be Champagne in the Park, and Friday will be the kick-off party. The court will be there to promote the festival and to greet people.

Walter said that volunteers are still needed for the festival and interested people may call the special-events coordinator at the mayor’s office. Walter will be helping with the children’s events like face-painting, a bouncy ride, and pony rides.

Joan Jett and the Black Hearts will perform Saturday at 4:30 p.m. Jazz trumpeter Chris Botti will perform Sunday at 4:30 p.m. Crafts and art celebrating spring will be available from vendors, and food vendors will be set up throughout the park.

The queen’s coronation will take place Saturday at noon in Washington Park.

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