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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, May 5, 2011

Improvement dispute
Star Plaza doesn’t want to be a carpet for refurbished 20 Mall

By Jo E. Prout

GUILDERLAND — Improvements to the former 20 Mall, now known as Hamilton Square, and easement disputes with the neighboring Star Plaza dominated the planning board meeting here last week.

The improvement issues come at a time when the owners of 20 Mall and the owners of Star Plaza are simultaneously engaged in grievances with the town over their tax assessments.

Engineer Daniel Hershberg, of Albany, represented William Lia, whose family owns the 20 Mall property. Hershberg reviewed a site plan of the parking, traffic, and Gold’s Gym expansion planned for the plaza.

Town planner Jan Weston was absent; her comments, read by board member Terry Coburn, described the plan with nearly 500 parking spaces below town standards as an overuse of the site.

“It’s great to see the investment going into the plaza,” Chairman Stephen Feeney said. Exterior renovations on the strip mall have already begun.

“You’ve got to explain to me how that intersection’s going to function,” he told Hershberg.

The 20 Mall is notorious for its parking-lot stop signs, blocked turns, and sharp corners. At its border with Star Plaza, two levels of road run parallel.

“Now you’ve got parking backing into [the traffic] circulation,” Feeney said of the new design. “Dead-end parking stalls are just a bad thing. I’d rather see a really nice design and have less [parking] spaces.”

The site plan included a second-floor addition of an indoor track to Gold’s Gym, a pool, and the placement of the gym’s front door to the north, only yards away from a Star Plaza parking lot.

“Are you competing with the Y?” board member James Cohen asked Lia, who shrugged in response. The Guilderland YMCA lies a block west of 20 Mall and Star Plaza.

Hershberg said that the second-story expansion would be in Phase 2 of the renovation.

“It’s not our intent to stifle the project,” said Michael Ermides, whose family owns Star Plaza. “A robust 20 Mall will only invigorate the surrounding area,” he said. Ermides said that the proposed plan might place a burden on Star Plaza during certain times of day.

Savas Ermides, who started Star Plaza, said that the owners of 20 Mall previously created the difference in elevation between the parallel drives, which attract skateboarders. Ermides said that the new plan violates the intent of easements originally drawn up between Star Plaza and 20 Mall. Parking for Star Plaza’s tenant, Dunkin’ Donuts, could be affected under the current plan, Ermides said. The proposed plan also calls for the installation of a wall between the two road levels. 

“If you allow the wall, I want a gate on top of the wall, and coverage of insurance,” Ermides said. “We’ve lived together for 45 years before Billy was born. I was here before the center was built. I didn’t pay $30 million to be a carpet for 20 Mall,” Ermides said, referring to decades of investment and taxes paid to the town.

“Your concerns are reasonable,” Feeney said. “We’ll look at that and the zoning board will look at that.”

Hershberg said that the existing stairwell could be removed, but Ermides said that the whole proposed wall should be eliminated.

The site plan also called for the renovation of the bank on the 20 Mall property, and the construction of a drive-through restaurant. Hershberg did not name the restaurant, but he said that the drive-through is not a burger restaurant. Ermides suggested that the incoming drive-through might be a Starbucks.

Lia told The Enterprise that work on the interior renovations would begin as soon as possible.

Other business

In other business, the planning board:

— Approved a site plan for the NBT bank at 5 New Karner Road near the corner of routes 155 and 20.

Bohler Enginering project manager Daniel Clarey, representing Schuyler Companies, asked the board to consider the construction of seven banked parking spaces.

“I’ve looked at this…more than you know to find a simple fix,” Feeney said about the cramped area.

The board suggested that the bank revise its plan and convert a crosswalk to a handicapped-accessible aisle, and limit the other spaces to four or five to minimize the conflict of customers backing into a congested intersection.

“It is what it is,” Feeney said about the space; and

— Heard a concept presentation by Nick Costa for the Giardina family to subdivide 4.7 acres on Old State Road into four lots. Two of the lots would share a curb cut, and two are keyhole lots, Costa said. All have access to public water and sewer.

Feeney cautioned Costa to be realistic with home placement on the lots.

“I’m assuming people are going to want a backyard,” Feeney said. “It seems kind of tight.”

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