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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 26, 2009

NS4SED holds forum
Pride of New Scotland forms

By Saranac Hale Spencer

NEW SCOTLAND — As one established citizens’ group plans a public forum here, a new group has sprung up.

Pride of New Scotland, Inc. filed with the Department of State’s division of corporations as a not-for-profit organization on Feb. 27.

“Our platform is to bring attention to Local Law I,” said Annie Brill, who is involved with the group, which is still in its genesis and doesn’t yet have a president or officers.

The bill that prompted the group to form was proposed in December by Elizabeth Kormos and Michael Naughton, the two remaining members of the Citizens’ Zoning Advisory Committee, a group appointed by the town board after plans for a shopping center to be anchored by a Target store were made public last spring.  Each town board member chose a committee member and charged the group with recommending ways to align the town’s zoning with its 1994 comprehensive land-use plan.

The formerly five-member group had been divided over the issue of a cap on the allowable square footage for retail buildings in the commercial zone and three members of the committee resigned, claiming Kormos had conflicts of interest.  This included Chairwoman Roselyn Robinson who is Brill’s sister.

Kormos and Naughton then submitted a bill that included a 50,000-square-foot size cap on single retail stores and a 100,000-square-foot cap on shopping centers.

“I don’t think square footage is the key,” Brill said, adding of the figures, “It’s an arbitrary number.”

“That part of the law was derived from the data analysis we conducted,” Kormos answered through the Enterprise yesterday.  The research she did showed that retail developments over 100,000 square feet would require a regional draw because there wouldn’t be enough people in the New Scotland area to support it, she said. 

According to a paper, written in 2004 by a graduate student in the architecture department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which Kormos cited in her research, Target requires a population of 100,000 to 250,000 within five miles.  According to the last census, in 2000, the total population of New Scotland was 8,626 and the population of Albany County was 294,565; estimated figures from the federal Census Bureau put the population of the county at 299,307 in 2007.

“You can find studies on either side of the issue,” Robinson said yesterday, explaining that she, too, had researched large chain retail stores.

Earlier this month, the planning board, in a 5-2 vote, sent a revised Local Law I to the town board that includes new definitions that more than triple the allowable square footage in the commercial zone.

The town board will hold a workshop meeting on April 6 at 4:45 p.m. to discuss both versions of the law.

NS4SED plans forum

To inform people and facilitate debate, the group New Scotlanders 4 Sound Economic Development, of which Kormos is a member, will hold a forum on April 1 at 7 p.m. at the American Legion Hall in Voorheesville, the group announced.  NS4SED formed about a year ago in opposition to Cazenovia-based Sphere Development’s proposal.  Sphere initially proposed building a 750,000-square-foot retail center at the intersection of routes 85 and 85A, the site of the old Bender melon farm.  It has since scaled back its plans to total 350,000 to 400,000 square feet, but maintains that it needs the 137,000-sqaure-foot Target store to make the development viable.

According to Bob Prentiss, an active member of the group, the forum will feature five panelists with varying areas of expertise including Jeff Baker, an attorney familiar with environmental, zoning, and land-use laws; Kormos, who is the president of her real estate consulting firm; Dr. Marian Mudar, an environmental scientist who works with the New York State Transportation Department’s office of environment; Ed Clark, the town’s former supervisor who was Voorheesville’s mayor for nearly two decades; Kurt Anderson, a civil engineer and long-time New Scotland resident; and Dr. David A. Lewis, an assistant professor of geography and planning at the University at Albany.

Robinson hasn’t yet decided if she will attend the forum, which is titled: Big Box Forum.

“I am not attending,” said Brill.  “It’s not about a big box to me.”  The proposed Local Law I affects all of the commercial and industrial zones in New Scotland, she said, not just the old Bender melon farm where the development was proposed.  “This is much broader than a big-box store,” she said.

“A whole lot of fear has been created,” said Brill, concluding, “Out of fear comes bad policy.” 

Each proposal that comes to the town should be looked at on its own merits, she said, rather than excluding a proposal based on size.

If a developer has plans for something larger than the allowed size, Kormos said, “All [he or she has] to do is apply for a PUD.”  The Planned Unit Application puts the developer in front of the elected town board for approval, rather than the appointed planning board, she said.

So far, Pride of New Scotland, Inc. has had about 15 to 20 people, many of whom have been different, at its meetings, said Robinson, who hasn’t yet decided if she will be a member.  Right now, she called the meetings, “very informal.”

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