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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 7, 2008

Senior project graduates to public hearing

By Jo E. Prout

NEW SCOTLAND — The planning board here moved the town’s policies in new directions on Tuesday; the board agreed to act as lead agency for a senior housing project that requires a zoning change, and set a public hearing for the project, which would require the town to own and operate catch basins near the site.

New Scotland OPC, LLC, owned by nearby resident Charles Carrow, will build a 30-unit senior residence development of duplexes on a 6.9-acre parcel behind its medical suite on New Scotland Road, if the town gives the project its final approval. The planning board had previously approved the project and sent it to the town board, but the project was returned to the planning board for more details.

On Tuesday, planning board members were more concerned with the aesthetics of the project and with eligibility requirements for residents than with technical details. When Carrow introduced the plan for 30 residences, board member Beth Stewart said, “That’s wonderful.”

“We have a waiting list of probably 150 [people],” Carrow said. “It’s a full tax-paying development. It will not affect school enrollment.”

Eligible buyers would be 55 years old or older, Carrow said. When board member Cynthia Elliott asked if the units would be deed-restricted to older adults only, board Chairman Robert Stapf said, “It’s all spelled out in the senior housing law.”

In March, a year-and-a-half after Carrow first requested it, the town board adopted a senior overlay district. It passed 4 to 0, with Councilwoman Deborah Baron abstaining because her husband had business interests in Carrow’s proposed development; Robert Baron would act as the project contractor for the development, he said earlier.

The floating zone allows for senior housing to be built on any parcel, regardless of its current zoning designation, providing that it gets approval. It is an effort to streamline the process for developers, which will encourage the growth of senior housing in the town, said Councilman Richard Reilly at the time. Reilly was largely responsible for drafting the bill.

The proposal was severely criticized by some residents who said the law wasn’t tailored to seniors’ needs and who raised questions about whether the overlay district was primarily a means to let Carrow build residences in a commercial zone. 

The law has a sunset provision, which requires that construction for a project begin within two years of its approval or the land will revert to its original zoning, and it has a surviving-child clause, which allows the child of a deceased senior citizen to remain in his parent’s home for up to six months.

“Quality senior housing”

Carrow told the planning board on Tuesday that prices are expected to start at $275,000. Each unit will have a full garage with a basement. “The garage goes right into the unit,” he said.

Carrow said that single seniors tend to have home offices in the second unit of similar residences. They often install home theaters and fire and security systems, also, he said.

The residences will not use a homeowners’ association, Carrow said, because there will be no commonly-owned property. The street into the senior housing development will be turned over to the town, he said.

The presence of the Stewart’s Shop and Emma Cleary’s Café up the road, and the medical building in front of the development, are selling points with senior buyers, Carrow said.

The planning board told Carrow that the storm-water management plan needs to be “tweaked a little bit.” The project will involve a joint venture with the town of Bethlehem for water and sewer, “but the basics are there,” Stapf said.

Keith Menia, of Stantec Engineering in Albany, acted as the town-designated engineer for the planning board. Menia said the project calls for one grinder pump per duplex. Carrow said that he needs legal guidelines to outline how homeowners would share the cost of grinder pump repairs, “so the town has zero responsibility.”

Menia said that the catch basins needed for the project would be owned by the town. A special utility district restricted to the medical building and the residences would be created to “make sure the town is not burdened by [operation and maintenance] of this project,” he said.

“This one, as proposed, is pretty low-maintenance, but we’re setting a precedent,” Menia said.

“The town has done an excellent job getting through the zoning changes,” Carrow told The Enterprise. “I’m a resident. I want to see it done the right way.”

He said that he expects no further delays.

“The town’s been great to work with. I have no regrets,” Carrow said. He is eager to build and provide “quality senior housing,” he said. He said that 70 million Americans will soon look for senior housing, and that New Scotland will be pleased to have an ordinance in place to “address community needs.”

If the town approves the project, construction could begin this fall, he said.

“Our engineering plans are done. If water and sewer come through, I’d like to be able to put a shovel in the ground in November or December,” Carrow said. “We’re looking forward to getting the project off the ground [to build something] residents will be proud of.”

The board scheduled a public hearing on the project for Sept. 2.

Other business

In other business, the planning board;

— Scheduled a public hearing on Sept. 2 to discuss a special-use permit application by Moklesa Shah to have a pond constructed at 1061 Krumkill Road;

— Scheduled a public hearing on Sept. 2 for a special-use permit application by Claude Rodrigue to add 100 yards of fill to his Normans Kill Road parcel. The fill is needed to level an area for a new building, Rodrigue said. He hoped to have fill from the county’s construction project on Johnson Road, he said.

The use of spoil from a county project would need to be coordinated with the county so that the county could comply with its storm water pollution prevention plan, Menia said. Rodrigue may not need his own prevention plan to be filed in this case; the project would fall under the county’s plan, Menia said. Menia will check with the county, he said. The board set the public hearing, pending Menia’s findings; and

— Waived the requirement, by a vote of 5 to 1, for a public hearing for the final plat of the Amedore development in the Colonie Country Club Estates. Board members Stapf, Elliott, Stewart, Robert Smith, and alternate Jo Ann Davis voted for the waiver. Board member Charles Voss voted against the waiver.

Stapf said that the approval of a preliminary plat locks in lot lines. If the lot lines are not changed for a final plat, then the project does not need a public hearing, he said. Planning Board Attorney Louis Neri agreed, and said that the town code allows the board to waive the hearing if the final plat substantially agrees with the preliminary plat.

The Amedore project has an agreement with the village of Voorheesville to have a 50-foot buffer zone along Forest Drive and Locust Drive, the board said. In exchange, the village agreed to supply water to the development.

“I felt that the public should have had more opportunities,” Voss said about his vote against the waiver.

Voss said that the parcels in question could have been easily flipped around on the site plan.

“If 50 feet is good enough for the village, why is it not good enough for the town?” Voss said. He said that he supports giving the public more opportunities to speak, particularly because the planning board has been criticized in the past for not allowing public input.

Voss said that he is trying to change the number of meetings between some, but not all, board members and developers that occur with many projects. He wants the entire board to be involved, he said.

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