AT A REGULAR MEETING OF THE TOWN BOARD OF THE TOWN OF NISKAYUNA, DULY CALLED AND HELD ON THE 24TH DAY OF JULY, 2001, AND HELD AT THE NISKAYUNA TOWN OFFICE BUILDING, ONE NISKAYUNA CIRCLE, NISKAYUNA, NEW YORK, THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS WERE PRESENT;
HONORABLE SCOTT M. HORTON COUNCILMAN
PATRICIA A. DONNELLY COUNCILWOMAN
LIZ ORZEL KASPER COUNCILWOMAN
WILLIAM R. CHAPMAN COUNCILMAN
LUKE J. SMITH SUPERVISOR
Others present: Helen Kopke, Town Clerk; Eric Dickson, Town Attorney; Darryl Ostrander, Deputy Police Chief; Charles Goldstock, Deputy Zoning Enforcement Officer; Paul Sebesta, Comptroller; and Kathy Matern, Planner.
Public Hearing No. 1– Hummingbird Manor - Establishment of Extension No. 151 to Consolidated Water District No. 1; Extension No. 106 to Sewer District No. 6; Establishment of Drainage District No. 18.
A representative from Ingalls, Smart Associates, on behalf of CWL Development, gave a presentation on the proposed extensions for the 48.5-acre Hummingbird Manor Subdivision. The drainage district will maintain the storm water management system, which will be installed by the developer. The system consists of a series of catch basins along Heather Lane and Hummingbird Court. They will drain into either one of two storm water management detention areas. The water district will incorporate the entire parcel and distribution will connect the existing stub on Heather Lane to Consaul Road.
The sewer extension will connect with the Becker Street pump station. An analysis of this station incorporated the proposed Mohawk Mall redevelopment as well as the additional flows of the pump station and determined that there are no upgrades necessary at this time. A verbal agreement has been made between Richard Pollock and the developer that once the development is fully operational if any improvements need to be made to the pump station the developer would make necessary improvements. They will also be providing emergency generator at the pump station. Rather than agreeing verbally, the Board agreed to add this agreement to the resolution.
When no members of the public wished to be heard the Supervisor closed the public hearing.
Public Hearing No. 2 – Enactment of a local law to increase the boundaries of the Schenectady/Glenville Empire Zone.
Steve Strichman, the Economic Development Zone Coordinator explained that the Schenectady/Glenville Empire Zone is currently undergoing a boundary revision process. The zone was created in the mid 90’s because the City of Schenectady had certain census tracks that had low income, high unemployment, and high poverty. These areas are eligible to receive Empire Zone benefits and the Zone was created to help spur economic development in these areas.
This New York State program consists of wage tax credits (a five year program) where each new employee hired is given a tax credit of $1,500 or $3,000 credit per employee depending on if they are a targeted employee. A sales tax exemption for ten years (4% New York State). There can also be a real property tax credit in certain instances, which lasts 14 years. A business income tax credit (for 14 years) can be up to a 100% reduction of their income taxes but it is based on their increase of employment. The County portion of the sales tax will still be charged.
A map was presented of the zone. They have 1,280 acres to put in the zone. ¾ needs to be in the City in the qualifying census tracks or those contiguous to these tracks. Right now, they have only 20-40 acres left. They are currently looking to put 9 acres for the Nova Bus Plant and 2 acres for Environment One. When they go out of the City, they must show that there are benefits to city residents. The zone administrative board and the Empire State Development Corporation saw that these businesses might potentially leave but also could expand. They have manufacturing opportunities available, employ people from the city now, and there will be additional opportunities for city residents as well as Niskayuna residents. The zone administrative board has approved adding these two acres
pending Niskayuna enacting the local law. Rotterdam has already approved three parcels and Glenville is in the process. The City of Schenectady will hold a public hearing at the end of August to enact all the legislation, which will then be submitted to New York State. This is an opportunity to help these sites grow.
Supervisor Smith stated that previously Volvo discussed the possibility of expanding Nova Bus which did not happen. They hope that if they are in the Empire Zone this may occur in the future. Regarding delusion of the program, it was initiated to help revitalize the urban core and there are 60 zones throughout the state. Albany has both a city and county zone, and the county zone can be placed anywhere. We are competing against Albany on a county level. We still have to prove that we can get benefits for zone residents. The delusion is coming from everywhere.
More interest has been seen in the program due to three new benefits of sales tax exemption, income tax and real property tax credits which came into effect in January 2001. They have 100 businesses participating in the zone. There is $18 million of investment from these companies with an employment increase last year of about 200. Councilman Horton is excited that the proposed changes is a wonderful way to reapportion the zones to areas that will have much more potential and investor interest especially along the major corridors.
Scott Cietek , Schenectady Economic Development Corporation, gave an overview of the history of the economic zone in Schenectady. Environment One (E1) has plans to expand at its present location and Nova Bus is considering plans for expansion in the future. The resolution before the Board is important to keep these companies in the county. He asked the Board to consider approving the proposal tonight.
Supervisor Smith remarked that tonight’s public hearing is not about the expansion of Environment One but about including it in an Empire Zone. Later tonight, a public hearing will be called on a Special Use Permit pursuant to a project proposal that E-1 has submitted to the Town. Last night the Town Planning Board recommended the referral to the Town Board for a Special Use Permit.
Frank Mauro, 1233 Viewmont Drive, and Director of the Fiscal Policy Institute (a research organization) is often critical of firm specific subsidies. The zones program logic claimed to eliminate the concern about patronage when the program was first created. Zones were drawn to fit certain criteria and firms which located in the zone would receive certain benefits. Now, because of a change in the rules within the law, zones can now consist of an unlimited number of non-contiguous parcels. The original logic would be a coherent community to try to revitalize the community. The new law allows bringing the zone wherever desired.
From the Town’s perspective, as long as the law stands the Town should support this local law. This does not mean that for the overall logic for the State that this makes any sense.
Under Criteria for Zone Designation there are four ways zones can be designated. Niskayuna would be added to the urban zone that originally was qualified for Schenectady. To be eligible, pervasive poverty, high unemployment, and general economic stress must characterize the area. It must correspond to traditional neighborhood boundaries, and where appropriate be bounded by major natural physical boundaries (such as bodies of water, railroad lines, or limited access highways) and must meet other requirements. These requirements are economic distress, unemployment, and poverty. It also allows for lands nearby or contiguous to census tracks. Glenville was originally included and this is the way the Niskayuna parcels will be brought.
The purpose of the zones program is to revitalize distressed areas. There has to be a relationship between giving zone benefits to these parcels and the revitalization of the distressed area. By bringing in the Niskayuna parcels help will be brought to the distressed area. The increase of employment somehow has to be related to people who live in the designated census tracks. For all of the parcels added, for example, there has to be an examination of public transportation patterns. The Department of Economic Development states that the law does not place any limit on the number of non-contiguous parcels, but the law still says that all of the parcels have to correspond to traditional neighborhood or community boundaries. Now that they can bring the zone to you, it opens up the question of
patronage and also the question of what are the traditional community boundaries?
Niskayuna should support this because in effect if there is a local business expanding, and the Town as a matter of policy wants to help that business with a property tax break, it is a lot better for the Town’s budget to do this as part of the zone because the State then reimburses the Town for the foregone property taxes rather than the Town doing it on its own through its mechanism. As long as this opportunity exists (and he does not think it should exist), as fiduciaries of the Town’s budget, the Board would be doing the right thing to enact this law.
He believes the state needs to give serious consideration to the way it has changed this program and the City has to carefully evaluate whether or not there will be benefits. There is supposed to be annual reporting of the zones and it should be done in a way that as they are bringing in these non-contiguous parcels there is some documentation in the annual report for the benefit of the City to show the linkages to the distressed area. We are going into new territory where we are bringing in far-flung parcels and we need a different type of documentation. When the reports show developments within the distressed areas themselves, it is more prima-facie that there is a relationship. By voting on this, the Board has the ability to draw money out of the State treasury. Not only are we saving ourselves the
property tax relief, but also by making this decision, the Board can give Environment One corporate income tax breaks. The State has opened this up in a way that undercuts the targeting. What needs to be resolved is that the purpose of the law is to revitalize the distressed areas and zones. Regardless of how many non-contiguous parcels are made up, they still have to correspond to traditional neighborhood or community boundaries. It remains to be seen whether or not some of the zone changes going on around the State (including this one) really correspond to traditional neighborhoods or community boundaries, which is not a discretionary part of the law.
Mr. Mauro disagrees philosophically with the rules made by Economic Development about non-contiguous parcels. The Department of Economic Development is a large part of this because they frequently approach communities with parcels they want in. They cannot effectively play their regulatory role in terms of parcels that the community wants to add because it almost becomes a trading. As a statewide development policy, this leaves itself open to tremendous patronage and corruption. He does not think the state should be allowing this and the City should go along with this only with careful analysis and come up with the real conclusion that the employment at these two sites will help revitalize the distressed city. He believes both Niskayuna and Schenectady should approve this and want to see real
evidence that bringing these two parcels and parcels in Rotterdam and Glenville parcels into the zone are going to help the distressed areas. They should want to see some decent evidence and they should ask that the annual reports be done in the future that shows that. Until such time that the State revises the rules so that the entire state is playing by the same rules, there is no reason why Niskayuna shouldn’t go forward. Some suburban firms have agreed to do aggressive outreach to city residents so there are ways to do aggressively rather than passively.
George Robertson, resident of Niskayuna and President of Schenectady Economic Development Corporation, stated that in 1994 when New York State approved the zone, there was an understanding that the City and County of Schenectady were inseparable as an economic unit. We are the second smallest county in the State. The City has needs and has distressed areas and does not have land or buildings to fill those needs. If Environment One relocated to Dallas, add types of businesses in Schenectady would be effected. If they are here, their employees are adding to the economy. This proposal has a clear benefit to the City and the Town. The essential part of a community’s life is people who have income.
Katherine Wajda, 2165 The Plaza, feels that the major economic activity in our Town is the creation, growth, enhancement, and improvement of human capital. The work we do in our families may not be highly paid and may not show up in the GDP but that does not mean it isn’t economically vital to the health of our community. Residents have come to meeting after meeting to tell you that excessive development in the Balltown Road corridor is lowering the quality of life in the adjacent neighborhoods. The economic development program being promoted tonight can be summed up in three words – put residents last. It is the program that has been practiced in the City of Schenectady for more than 15 years with disastrous consequences. Niskayuna does not need to follow Schenectady’s path
and we have a leadership role to play in changing the tax code to allow for revenue sharing in Schenectady County. Schenectady wants it, and we in the towns need it to avoid excessive development like the proposal on Balltown Road. The alternative is becoming like north Jersey. Extending the Empire Zone benefits to an area that is already overbuilt is, in my view, going the wrong way.
PRIVILEGE OF THE FLOOR
Lorene Zabin, 2455 Brookshire Drive, commented that this was a very important public hearing and she does not think resolutions should be read right after a public hearing. The Board should give it the two-week cycle unless there is a press for time that prevents any further thought on this particular hearing. Mrs. Zabin remarked that the Becker Street sewer pump, thanks to Mrs. Kasper, has been inactive without Mohawk Mall. She hopes that the Board changes the contract. There were problems with the sewer system when Mohawk Mall was active.
Sally Lester, Troy Road, expressed her concern with the dying trees and wetlands along Balltown Road at Hanaford Plaza. She was also dismayed at the condition of the property at Troy and Rosendale Road. She could not understand why the property remained in such poor condition for so long with nothing being done.
Kevin Walsh, 2843 Whitmyer Drive, approves of the Skateboard Park, which appears that it will be built at the end of the tennis courts going into the transfer station and coming across to the basketball courts at Blatnik Park. The Board has walked the area and the tennis organization that was concerned about the site appeared satisfied with the new choice. Mr. Walsh cautioned the Board to look at traffic patterns and parking in this area. The bike path will allow the kids to reach the park so they are not dependent on their parents to get them to the park. He believed there should be some signage (Yield) coming out of the transfer station and driving range. Saturday morning shows traffic problems and parking in the wrong area which sometimes back out
Councilman Kasper believes the location of the Skateboard Park will enhance this area once the Highway Department cleans up the area and makes more definite road, parking lot, and park. Mr. Walsh disagreed and stated that these things could be taken care of without the Skateboard Park such as the road being delineated to improve safety.
Mr. Walsh suggested that the park would still be difficult to get to for all Town residents (for example residents of the Becker Street/State Street area) because they do not have access to the trails. As a planner, he recommended a long-range plan of tying bike paths together to make it accessible for everyone which will take a long time and large investment. He asked consideration be given to enhancing the availability for our youth by use of a shuttle. It would get kids from the Becker Street area, Avon Crest Park, or the Town Recreation Center and gets them to the different parks on a routine basis to give them somewhere to go and utilize the investment the Town is putting into the parks. He suggested that the Town get grants, volunteers, or corporate sponsors to
accomplish this. Councilwoman Kasper thought it was a good idea and would love to see this work, but she was cautioned that kids do not want to use buses these days.
Resolution 2001-179, establishes Extension 151 to Consolidated Water District No. 1 for Hummingbird Manor. Councilwoman Donnelly reminded the Board that she was not in favor of this subdivision. She believes in sensible development, but in this area too many units were being built and she is concerned with traffic. She will support the extension since as Chair of the Special Districts, she is now responsible for what needs to take place for the development.
Resolution 2001-180, establishes Extension 106 to Sewer District No. for Hummingbird Manor. The resolution passed by a vote of four ayes, with Councilman Horton voting no.
Prior to the vote, Attorney Eric Dickson offered an addition to the resolution before it was moved to include:
“the plans and specifications prepared by Ingalls, Smart are approved on the condition that the petitioner developer shall enter into an agreement satisfactory to the Town Attorney and the Sewer and Water Engineer which formalizes the developers agreement to make improvements to the Becker Street pump station or other improvements which would be required in the future to dispose of sewage from the proposed extension.”
Councilman Horton expressed his disagreement with the addendum because as Commissioners of the Sewer & Water districts they assure that these funds are going to the people that are benefiting in the designated district. Already the petitioner has indicated they will install an emergency generator. He believes this is a sufficient commitment on their part. This benefits not only Hummingbird Manor but everyone hooked up to this sewage pumping station. They have already done more than what they have to do to provide a benefit to more than just the neighborhood for which this development is being built. To add an undefinable period of time is not realistic. The engineers are good and specialize in this kind of work. If they make a determination and our
engineer agrees he thinks we should accept the volumes they have projected.
Councilwoman Kasper disagreed and requested a written agreement. She suggested a 60 or 90 day trial period to see how the pump station was working. If they are already adding emergency backups they realize that it will put a load on the station. She has seen the capacity of other pumping stations where modifications had to be made because of added developments.
Councilman Horton disagreed and stated this is exactly why we have budgets and tax the districts so we have repair funds. We are requesting a capital improvement and not repair and maintenance. This capital improvement benefits more than just the new development. Councilwoman Kasper said they are not looking for a capital improvement and redoing the whole thing but what might be needed for an adjustment after its up and running.
Ingalls, Smart had not determined any timeframe with Mr. Pollock. When Mohawk Mall and Hummingbird Manor are built out they would reexamine the station at that time. Councilman Donnelly wanted to make sure that the residents who are currently in this sewer district would not be effected detrimentally when Hummingbird is finished. The Mohawk Mall developers believe their usage will be no larger than during the term of the original mall, and no agreement as been made with this developer. When developments are tying into a pump station, the Town requires that developers install emergency generators. Councilwoman Kasper has seen many pump stations being impacted by new developments.
Attorney Dickson noted that at the time a subdivision is complete, if there are any foreseeable improvements that may be necessary the Town Engineer will require the amount of those improvements to be put in a letter of credit. This is done at the time the roads are accepted and building permits are first issued.
If the Town has to make expenditures on the pump station in the future, the Comptroller will allocate it among the benefited extensions. The agreement makes sure it does not fall as a future tax burden of the residents. The developer is assuming the risk. The developer's representative stated that even if it is open-ended, the subdivision process in the Town lends itself to looking at this when the final plat is filed.
Councilman Horton stated that when Hummingbird Manor is fully occupied and developed there could be a new development approved by the Board and contributing to the system. Kathy Matern confirmed this by announcing that a 22-lot subdivision is planned off Becker Street.
Resolution 2001-181, establishes Drainage District No. 18 for Hummingbird Manor.
Resolution 2001-182, authorizes four employees of the Water & Sewer Department to attend a meeting of the Adirondack Waterworks Conference at a cost of $30 each.
Resolution 2001-183, approves Daniel R. Galli to attend the 16 week, one-night per week, Water Supply course offered at SUNY Cobleskill beginning August 29, 2001 at a cost of $500.
Resolution 2001-184, appoints Patrick A. Dunlavey of Lynn Plaza, as a temporary seasonal laborer in the Water & Sewer Department at $6.50 per hour.
Resolution 2001-185, authorizes the Supervisor to enter in a service agreement with Metroland Business Machines for the servicing of the Sharp copier machine at Town Hall, including parts, labor, maintenance checks, and supplies for one year, at a cost of $.0095 per copy used.
Resolution 2001-186, makes miscellaneous budgetary modifications.
Resolution 2001-187, authorizes the purchase of two computers, one scanner, one printer, two computer tables, at a cost of $2,706.37 and Road Runner internet service, at a cost of $85 per month, for the use of senior citizens at the Community Center.
Resolution 2001-188, appoints Maureen H. Murphy, Dean Street, as a part-time clerk in the Assessor’s Office at a compensation of $9.00 per hour, without benefits, commencing July 25, 2001.
Resolution 2001-189, accepts a grant from the Niskayuna Community Foundation for the purchase of a defibrillator at a cost not to exceed $2,500.
Resolution 2001-190, accepts title, together with utility easements, to Mohawk Trail, and Comanche Trail, as part of the Mohawk Trails Phase 3 subdivision.
Resolution 2001-191, accepts title to Alva Road, and Dynamo Court, in the Edison Woods, Phase 3A subdivision, together with utility easements.
Resolution 2001-192, allows Paulsen Development Company of Albany, owner of 1937 Holiday Drive, to construct a driveway over a portion of a Town easement.
Resolution 2001-193, authorizes Frank E. Gavin III, Raymond Smith, and Kenneth Williams to attend the 6th Annual Eastern Winter Road Maintenance Symposium and Equipment Expo in Worcester, Massachusetts, September 6.
Resolution 2001-194, accepts a bid from Rampage, LLC, for all material, equipment, and labor to secure skateboard equipment in the Town Skateboard Park at a cost of $67,300.
Resolution 2001-195, adopts Local Law No. 6 authorizing an increase in the boundaries of the Schenectady/Glenville Empire zone to include 11 acres of land located in the northwest corner of Niskayuna.
Resolution 2001-196, calls for a public hearing to consider an application for a special use permit for 2773 Balltown Road for the construction of a 34,000 square foot addition to Environment One.
Resolution 2001-197, authorizes Gary Connor to attend the 14th Annual Training Conference of D.A.R.E. officers.
Resolution 2001-198, employs additional persons in the Recreation program.
There being no further business to come before the Town Board, Supervisor Smith declared the meeting adjourned.
Helen Kopke, Town Clerk