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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 16, 2007

Burbank heads chamber

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — Business here has a new face.

Starting on Monday, Katherine Burbank will be the new executive director of the Guilderland Chamber of Commerce.

Burbank described herself as having strong ties to the community with a background in business and not-for-profit management. She is excited about taking over the post, filled by Jane Schramm for 10 years, and she looks forward to continuing the charitable work of the chamber.

"I live in Guilderland"It is a small town, a family-oriented place, and the chamber does a good job in the community," Burbank said. "My husband is on the board for youth lacrosse and my kids go to Tawasentha Park for camping in the summer."

As for taking on the task of running the Guilderland Chamber, Burbank said, "For me, it’s a larger family"I’ve always loved this area."

Burbank lives with her husband, Steve Wacksman, in their Westmere home with their five children. Burbank is originally from Saratoga and her husband is a life-long Guilderland resident.

Burbank regularly received the chamber’s newsletter, she said, and, once she saw the opening for executive director, Burbank said, "It looked wonderful to me."

"It’s a lot of networking events. I think that the board of directors liked me because of what I could bring with me," said Burbank. "The interviews went very well."

Roger Lipera, who chairs the chamber’s board of directors, agreed.

"We’re very happy. Everyone I’ve talked to is very excited. "We were looking for people with experience in private businesses and non-profits"and a connection to the community."

Lipera said he looks forward to working with Burbank and hopes for a long and beneficial tenure.

"It seems like, in the Capital District, directors of the local chambers tend to stay around for awhile," he said.

The Guilderland Chamber of Commerce interviewed candidates for about three weeks before choosing Burbank, said Lipera.

Burbank has held different managerial positions for both private and not-for-profit organizations, including United Way in Albany. She has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from the University at Albany.

Burbank never met Schramm, who moved on to become the director of Senior Services of Albany, but that she corresponded with her via e-mail.

"I was preparing for a Taste of Albany event and she was inquiring about having a Taste of Guilderland event," Burbank said. "I guess now I’ll be working on it."

Maintaining the chamber, increasing services to local businesses, and continuing charitable work are Burbank’s main objectives for her first year, she said. But, in the future, she added, Burbank would like to come up with new events like last year’s Pigtacular to promote charitable fund-raising.

Burbank said she sees the job of director as representing the chamber for area businesses and at community events, as well as promoting and advertising the chamber and its activities. She will also be working with the town government on economic development issues, said Burbank.

"I think chambers are important and do a good job"especially the Guilderland Chamber," Burbank said. "It’s a niche community with a variety of businesses"It will be nice to connect them all."

Gipp Road residents protest home proposed for substandard lot

By Jo E. Prout

GUILDERLAND — Neighbors along Gipp Road told the planning board here last week that they do not want a home built on a substandard lot that could be grandfathered in.

Confusion about whether or not lots had indeed been subdivided by an owner in the 1950s but merged into one tax lot later brought the request for a tax lot subdivision to the attention of town officials.

"I’m trying to sell the lot," said Larry LeFevre, of Rotterdam. LeFevre grew up in the house on one of the two lots now located on 4.8 acres on Gipp Road. LeFevre now has potential buyers who want to build a home on the lot.

Planning board Chairman Stephen Feeney said that the town would not have known that the deed had been improperly prepared until an event like this arose.

"It’s somewhat of an awkward situation," he said. "Obviously, we need to talk to counsel. They created, illegally, a substandard lot." Planning board attorney Linda Clark did not attend the board meeting.

"But that’s not a reason to give a subdivision," argued Liesse Mohr, a resident who said that allowing a small lot to be used now would create a "grab for as much land as you can get."

"They have to show, ‘This is the house we want to build.’ They will have variances for the lot and for the house, itself," Feeney said. "It’s 70 feet by 150 feet," he said of the substandard lot. "It should be 100 feet by 150 feet. The zoning board will have to look at the neighborhood. The frontages are not dissimilar."

Another neighbor argued that a home on the proposed lot "would make the neighborhood look cramped and crowded" and would affect his property value.

The board noted that two other nearby lots with homes are also on 70-foot by 150-foot lots.

Current setback requirements for new homes are 15 feet from the side of the home to the property line, and 35 feet from the front and the rear of the home to the line.

The board said that the property may have been surveyed in the 1950s when the Fort Orange Manor subdivision was designed. At that time, the setbacks were eight feet from the side of the home.

"Whatever zoning applied then suffices," said board member Lindsay Childs. Feeney said that the zoning board and zoning officer would have to decide on what variances might be needed.

"You’re not necessarily grandfathered in," Feeney said. "Is it pre-existing, non-conforming" We’re not going to determine this on the fly, Lindsay."


A third lot, formerly attached to LeFevre’s two, with a home was sold to Sandra Losee three years ago. Although she said that she had not known that the lots were subdivided illegally, her attorney, Amy Calabrese, said that the title search revealed that the deeds were split in 1953 for Losee’s lot and LeFevre’s adjacent lot.

Board member Michael Cleary said that the issue before the board is whether or not the two LeFevre lots are buildable.

"She owns what she owns," Cleary said about Losee.

"It’s not affecting your client at all," Feeney said to Calabrese. If the lots have already been legally subdivided, he said, "All the applicant would need then is variances."

Because the zoning board could find no problems with the application, and thus not need to offer a public hearing, Mohr asked the board to notify Losee when a decision has been made.

"I think we can write a letter to the landowner to let her know what our determination is," Feeney said. "We’re not going to entertain the concept this evening. It may be a moot point."

Other business

In other business, the planning board:

— Approved Troy Miller’s plan to build a 10,000-square-foot office building at 2390 Western Ave. Because of the topography, Miller said, a front entrance for his real-estate office will be on the first floor, and a second entrance for tenants will be located at the rear of the property directly onto the second floor.

He said that he will use 4,000 square feet of space for his office and five employees, and the remaining 6,000 square feet will be rented.

The board approved his site plan with conditions. A sidewalk must be installed across his parcel and that of his neighbor, from whom he is purchasing the land. A condition of the land subdivision approved in 1988 required sidewalks to be built in front of the building. Grading, stormwater management, landscaping, and lighting plans must be submitted. And paved parking must be installed in phases, so that no more is paved than is necessary, depending on the tenants’ needs.

The planning board also suggested that the zoning board of appeals consider the effect the tenants’ traffic will have on Western Avenue. Feeney said that turns onto and from the property could create traffic problems, but that the property has an existing driveway; and

— Approved a site plan for Nancy Wideman to have a hair salon home occupation at 5 Velina Drive.

Chair-kicking argument leads to arrest

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — In the midst of watching a film about renegade law enforcement, an off-duty Guilderland cop arrested a movie-goer for yelling and swearing at him.

Thomas M. Conroy, 50, of 357 Myrtle Ave., number 4, Albany, was ticketed on July 21, inside of Crossgates Mall at Regal Cinema 18, for disorderly conduct, using obscene language or gestures, a violation.

Conroy, whose occupation is listed on the arrest report as a Medicaid driver, was watching the movie Live Free or Die Hard and was sitting in front of Officer Michael Minette when the argument began.

According to the arrest report, Minette "accidentally hit the rear of [Conroy’s] chair while adjusting his feet." Conroy, the report says, is 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighs 190 pounds.

After Conroy’s chair was hit during the movie, he told Minette in a loud voice to "stop kicking my f--king chair," the report says. According to Guilderland Police Minette said "excuse me," but Conroy responded by using expletives in a loud voice.

When Minette then identified himself as a Guilderland Police officer, Conroy stated, "I don’t give a f--k who you are," the report says. Minette advised Conroy to keep his voice down because "patrons of the movie were now turned"causing a public inconvenience," and he called others officers to the scene, according to the arrest report, and Minette met them outside of the movie theater.

Guilderland Police say that Conroy was then arrested for disorderly conduct and that he admitted he was "acting inappropriate in the movie."

Guilderland Deputy Police Chief Carol Lawlor told The Enterprise this week that it is relatively uncommon, but off-duty officers do make arrests.

"It all depends on the situation," Lawlor said. The deputy chief cited several examples of what an off-duty officer could do, such as calling other officers to the scene, following a suspect, or making an arrest.

Lawlor said that it is standard procedure for an off-duty officer to identify himself as a police officer, and that Minette was following procedure.

However, Lawlor warned, "I would encourage people to ask for identification."

Guilderland Police officers carry badges and when they are off-duty they also carry identification cards, Lawlor said. Every identification card or badge has a two-digit badge number, which is used as a verification number for officers, she said.

The ID cards are the same ones issued to other town workers and they all have a photograph, name, position, and identification number. Larger police and enforcement agencies may have more than two-digit badge numbers, said Lawlor.

Lawlor stressed the importance of seeing identification when a person claims to be an officer, either on-duty or off, because, she said, of the possibility of someone impersonating an officer.

"We had someone in Tawasentha Park last week who was claiming to be a Guilderland Police officer," Lawlor concluded.

Impersonating a police officer is a felony offense in New York State.

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