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Town Board Minutes 5/4/2004

Liz Orzel Kasper, Councilwoman
William R. Chapman, Councilman
Richard A. Holt, Councilman
Diane P. O’Donnell, Councilwoman
Luke J. Smith, Supervisor

        Public Hearing No. 1 – Special Use Permit for 3041 Troy Schenectady Road.
Irene Prazak, 2490 River Road, spoke as an elder of the Niskayuna Reformed Church and requested that the Town Board approve a Special Use Permit.  In the future the church will be constructing a non-visible (from Troy Road) connecting corridor to a renovated sanctuary basement that will give them passage-way from the renovated sanctuary basement to the new fellowship hall. J. G. Wade & Associates are the architects commissioned for the project because they specialize in historic preservation of churches and their campuses.  They also contacted C. T. Male for their site development plan.  They have made sure that all the plans have been in compliance with Office of State Parks & Historic Preservation.  Granting this permit will allow the church to have good functional and beautiful buildings that will last into Niskayuna’s future.  It will also give them badly needed parking that will allow for easier access for the elderly and disabled members.
The Planning Board has reviewed the plans and made a favorable recommendation.  The second level of the new building will be at the same level as the sanctuary floor elevation which is connected presently with a courtyard/sidewalk connection.  They are maintaining the entrance that is furthest west point and the current center entrance will be removed. The driveway accessed off Niskayuna Road will be replaced by a new entrance point at the crest of Niskayuna Road giving greater site visibility than the location of the old entrance.  
Jack Wade, a representative of the architect, stated that the design of the new building had to meet the Secretary of the Interior standards for the treatment of historical properties.  Guidelines are given for design of new buildings in historic settings.  The mass of the building cannot dominate the historic building and it is designed in the way that it completes the historic grouping of buildings that includes the original rectory.  Historically there had been buildings on this site that were wood clabbered.  They made sure not to mimic the church and not copy the materials on the church.  They wanted the building to stand alone and used wood.  
William Hendricks, Troy Road, (Chairman of the Niskayuna Planning Board) stated that the church has been generous to the neighborhood and is an important historic site and the only site in Niskayuna on the National Historic Register.  He believes they have a fine plan which will ensure their steady growth and fit their needs well into the future.
When no other members of the public wished to be heard, Supervisor Smith closed the public hearing.

Public Hearing No. 2 – Adoption of the Comprehensive Development Plan
Kevin Walsh, Chairman of the Comprehensive Development Plan Committee (and member of the Planning Board) gave an overview of the Comprehensive Plan.  Supervisor Smith thanked the committee who had done a tremendous amount of work going through the Plan.  They have presented a very worthy report.  This is the final stage in the process to get input from the pubic.  This process takes place about every 10 years.  
Mr. Walsh stated that the Comprehensive Plan is a map for orderly growth and a guide that the Town uses to make decisions.  It helps to protect and enhance development of the municipality.   Residents can access the Plan on the Town’s web site and it is also available at Town Hall.
Plan 1993 was a Planning Board document and due to changes in legislation Plan 2003 will be a Town Board document.  The Town Board delegated the task to a committee who are all volunteers.  Six revisions have been made and tonight is the public hearing.
Mr. Walsh outlined the accomplishments from the 1993 such as a Geographical Information System; bike path requirements; multipurpose walkways in subdivisions; land set- asides to form larger tracks of uninterrupted open space; encouraging Average Density Development; involvement in the Gateway Canal Plan; improve Aqueduct  and Lyons Park; investigate rezoning a portion of the I-G zone to IL (office technology); and redesign commercial zoning standards;  added 78 acres to the parks system; added 52 acres to neighborhood parks and open space; pursuing a zone change to L-C for County land in the southwest corner of Town; Town Center Overlay District; Mohawk Mall development into Mohawk Commons; Develop Residential Professional zone; remove professional office use from R-2; consider rezoning land in northeast corner of Balltown & Consaul Road; and Adopted R-P zoning for the northern section of Balltown Road near River Road.
Other areas covered in the Comprehensive Plan are Transportation, Cultural & Recreational Facilities; Economic Development; Public Facilities; Land Use; and Changes from Plan 93.
William Hendricks, 2626 Troy Road, (Chairman of Niskayuna Planning & Zoning Commission) supports the adoption of the 2003 Comprehensive Town Plan.  The Plan presents a steady and sane approach for the continuing development of the Town and it will be used as earlier Comprehensive Plans have been used.  The 2003 Plan requires adoption by the Town Board followed later by additional specific legislation for implementation of the goals and objectives in the Plan.  This public hearing and the subsequent debate and the adoption of the final Comprehensive Plan 2003 are a serious step in the future development of the Town.  To leave the Town with Plan 1993 would be, in his opinion, an error.  Adoption of the plan implies a commitment to implement its recommendations at some point in the future (though not a promise).  The Town Planning Department, Planning Board, and property owners in the Town will rely on the Town Board’s good judgment and commitment and the commitment of future Town Boards, to implement the plan that they adopt.
He thanked the members of the Ad-Hoc Comprehensive Town Plan Committee for the outstanding work that the committee has done in preparing the Plan.  The Town Planner, Kathy Matern, spent hours with the committee as part of her duty as the Town Planner and without her help and guidance the plan would not be before the Town Board tonight in its current form.  They have worked for more than two years and have had many meetings and conversations and reported their progress regularly to the Planning Board and Town Board.  The Town is fortunate to have fellow citizens with both the sense of civic duty and civic pride and the commitment to undertake a project of this magnitude.  He suggested that Town Board adopt a resolution recognizing and honoring the committee members for their work and make this resolution part of the plan itself.

Jonathan Kaledin, 1349 Myron Street, complimented the committee’s work on the Comprehensive Plan as an impressive effort. As a land use and environmental lawyer and since 1996, the New York State Counsel for the Nature Conservancy, he spent the past year in Massachusetts as the General Counsel for the office of Environmental Affairs.  
He has spent a lot of time in the last year on smart growth and sustainable growth issues.  It is important for communities like Niskayuna to plan the way it has.  Having lived in Niskayuna since 1996 he is concerned about the amount of development.  There appears to be an emphasis on development that he wonders should be “tweaked” in terms of using the Plan as a guideline for the Town.  
Conceding that much of the Town is built out, in terms of quality of life in Niskayuna, preserving and conserving what is left, the Plan should focus a bit more on the identification of particular properties or mechanisms the Town might adopt.  
The Town has identified a downtown area to build out but when you identify a downtown you need to think about protecting what is outside this area.  He urged the Town to think critically about doing that on the other side south of Route 7.  Five towns on Long Island had state legislation passed that allowed them to actively undertake open space conservation work within their jurisdictional boundaries.  The Community Preservation Act in Massachusetts allowed communities open space, conservation, housing and historic preservation to be undertaken under it.  There are lots of creative mechanisms the Board might look at as far as implementing this and tweaking it.
He would be glad to help out in the future on any issues that the Town might have in terms of land use planning, rezoning, and land conservation.  The goal is to build as livable a community as possible balancing the economic interests with what makes this a great community to live in.  People are identifying biking and walking as more important to them.  We should try as a town to get away from our addiction from the automobile.  

Lucy Comley, 1455 Dean Street, thanked the Board for appointing her to the Comprehensive Planning Committee.  She also expressed very strong and personal thanks to the Town Planner, Kathy Matern, for the extensive work put in to this Plan.  
In the land use section of the Plan under Average Density Development (ADD) and Objective 8, Task 3, that called for allowing ADD in land conservation area, she appealed to the Town Board to remove this from the document that the Board approves.  She felt developing in a conservation zone is a risk of forced succession and diversity of tree species,  the wildlife refuge, the soil creation and conservation, and consequent drainage management.  Deforestation in itself contributes to pollution problems.  
One of the surprises to her is that she began to look at the definition of LC in Niskayuna which is “to delineate those areas where substantial development of the land be prohibited due to potential soil erosion, stream or aquifer pollution, depletion of forest and wildlife areas and views all of which should be preserved or protected for the welfare of all people.”  ADD is not for the welfare of all people and takes 10 acres and larger lots and allows development on 2-1/2 acre single houses and clustered joined houses.  The land set aside and preserved, such as Hummingbird Manor, is for the use of the residents only who live in that area (as she reads the zoning ordinance).
She is saddened that Conservation has been revised throughout the years and now allowed uses are solar energy systems, solar collectors, swimming pools, accessory buildings, homecare units, and one house per five areas with ADD taking it down to one house per two acres.  Special Use Permits must be requested to have a nature preserve.  
She feels if the Board allows ADD’s to be part of Land Conservation they have essentially eradicated LC in Niskayuna.  It will no longer have a meaning.  She doesn’t believe that Town Planning should be done on such blanket development rules in the case of L-C without having first reviewed the properties and environment involved.  The Committee was never presented with a list of specific properties holding the potential for ADD. She felt that if the Town Board feels a need for more townhouses they should go in Rural Residential and the R-1 districts where it is currently permitted.  She asked the Board to put aside ADD in the L-C until the real town and site planning has been done.
She reported on a recent trip where she learned about the possibilities for federal grant money that is available in small sums.  We could hire an MIT professor to show us what the Town would look like at full build out.  We could hire people to show us what to look at in terms of transportation planning.  She would like to see a site planning firm come in and look at the multiple sites that could be developed with existing developments and looks at transportation.  It is called “visioning”.
She believes if the Board includes ADD’s in the Plan they will only encourage parcel-by-parcel development in very environmentally sensitive areas.  It destroys the natural beauty and the environment of the Town and it obliterates the meaning of the term land conservation.  She urged the Board to remove Task 3 of the plan and encouraged the Board to support the search for outside grants and outside design help in completing the remaining development of Niskayuna.

Jared Wells, 838 Downing Street, thanked the committee for all the hard work they have done.  He described a city in Illinois where development was looked at from a conservation standpoint.  The population growth was the same, but with planning from a conservation standpoint the community retained its character.  
He likes to ride his bike and not burn fossil fuels and feels there is currently little access in Town other than the public roads.  May 21 will be a “bike to school day” at Rosendale School.  He urged the Board to support methods that increase our ability to get around Town by methods other than the internal combustion engine and would like to see a bridge over Route 7.  He has provided a map to the Planning Board that linked up all the corridors of the Town.  For example, Avon Crest is two miles from the Mohawk Commons but it very dangerous to get there unless you are in a car.  It would be easy to put a pathway along Consaul Road that would allow access from housing to shopping and provide alternate means.

Leslie Weidmen-Herd, 2975 River Road, has reviewed the Plan and was encouraged by the objectives that include pedestrian and walkways and bikeways.  She has surveyed the parents from Rosendale School and no one said that they felt it was safe for their children to get to school with bicycling or walking.  They indicated that they would support their children getting to school on their own if there was a sidewalk or a safe route.  A few responses were read that stated “Rosendale Road does not have enough of a shoulder to bike on it during peak traffic times.”  “The route through River Road Park is a roundabout route for us and quite isolated for single riders to be done alone.”  “I would never let my children ride on Rosendale Road unless it was widened or had a sidewalk….I would like the option of walking the kids to school in nice weather.”  “Rosendale Road is very busy.  If there was a bike path or sidewalk we would walk to school.”
There is strong support for pedestrian and bikeways in the Town and she encouraged this for long term provisions.  She appreciated the work that went into the Plan and could tell it was a lot of hard work.  She had the Town map and she has worked out suggested routes with corridors of bike paths such as River Road and Balltown Road and Consaul Road that would be the safe routes where people could ride their bikes.  She supported the implementation of future bike paths and pedestrian walkways.

Javid Saifi, 4033 Windsor Drive, stated that as new developments are being built, there is a lot of forest land and wildlife that lives there.  He asked if anyone has asked what the impact of all the development will be to our Town.  He wondered at what point the Board will decide that the Town is built up enough and we should just leave it as it is.
Kevin Walsh stated the Town’s perspective on development and noted that unfortunately the Town does not own all of the undeveloped land.  It is owned by individuals who have a right to develop their land.  The Town does require Environmental Impact Statements.

Jonathan Kaledin suggested it is an issue of habitat fragmentation and what happens to wildlife in those situations.  There are a lot of studies of how turkey and deer come into suburban areas and get acclimated.   Subdivision and development in general does a lot of damage to wildlife and plant life also.  In terms of the overall tenure of this, although land is privately held and people have the right to develop it, the right to develop is regulated at many levels.  The town has significant powers in terms of its regulatory authority to control development.  The Town could impose a building moratorium for any amount of time while it chose to decide what to do about the comprehensive plan or chose to rewrite its subdivision or zoning ordinances.  These are the laws that are behind the planning principals.  He feels it is a misconception that privately owned land will be developed.

Leslie Gold, 1919 Pawtucket Avenue, thanked the Board for allowing her to serve on the committee and to Kathy Matern for all the work she has put in.   
Regarding Average Density Development in Land Conservation, currently if you have five areas of land that are zoned LC you can put up a house anywhere you wish.  You must only meet the minimum setbacks.  The advantage of ADD is that you could have smaller lots and areas would be left over that would remain open space.  There would be some incentive to a developer to do it this way because there would be less infrastructure costs.  There would be a benefit to the overall community because it would leave more of the land undisturbed.  
Councilwoman Kasper stated that two advantages would be to have contiguous land and public use land.  It would actually not be that more of the land would be undisturbed but that it would be the contiguously undisturbed.  It will also provide the opportunity to get the land together and pull it closer to the road rather in the back corners so there would actually be less land disturbed.

Richard Tentor, 1039 Merlin Drive, complimented the Board and Planning Board on the development and their implementation of the Town Center Overlay District which was implemented into the Long Range Plan by an amendment.  At the time they were pushing to develop the area to the degree they have stated in the Town Center District.  In today’s plan, one of the objectives is to take an active role in facilitating the development of selected properties that are under utilized.  
One of the objectives of Plan 1993 was to utilize (in a commercial zone) the area between Balltown Road, Van Antwerp Road, and WRGB Channel 6 facility.  This particular aspect has been left out of the 2003 Plan.  In order to implement and develop properties economically (which the Town Board has a desire to do to increase taxes) and also to centralize and reduce the number of vehicles throughout the Town, this particular area is very central to the area of Town and he recommends that it be maintained as described in the 1993 Plan and be reserved for commercial development.  Unless it is incorporated into the 2003 Plan, he recommends not adopting the Plan as it currently stands.  He recognizes that this is a very limited comment compared to the other comments that were more general in nature for the Plan.

Lucy Comly, 1455 Dean Street, found under Article 220-220B) (2) “ADD set aside land is preserved for the use of the residents of the area” which she believes is the residents of the area not the Town.   Kathy Matern stated that sometimes when you clarify open space in an ADD project that is specific to that project.  Any parkland (such as in Hummingbird Manor), the Town actually took that parkland and it is Town owned property now that is open to the public.  This land is adjacent to the Rice Bird Sanctuary.  
The actual project may have open space that is for the development, but the other land can be used for the general public.

Javid Saifi, 4033 Windsor Drive, stated that unless the Town does something to make the streets safe and slow the speed of cars it doesn’t make any difference if there are bike paths.  On Windsor Drive his children cannot cross the street because of the traffic moving through.  The Town needs to either reduce speeds or narrow the roads.  The average speed on many roads is a lot less than 30mph on some of the narrow roads.  He asked that some consideration be given to what the Board can do to help decrease the speed of traffic.

Jared Wells, 838 Downing Street, regarding discussion on long term planning and open land asked If there a long term vision of when Niskayuna would be fully developed.  As long as there is an appetite will we chew away at what is left?   There are implications on quality of life in Niskayuna.  We move here for the school systems and quality of life and because it is a suburban community.  As we go through the remaining land it will be less and less the character that drew us here in the first place.
Redistricting was done last year in the schools because the classrooms are full.  What plans are there to accommodate more and provide the quality of education that drew us here in the first place?  Does it make sense to keep building houses when we don’t have room in the classrooms?
At this time there being no other members of the public who wished to be heard, the Supervisor closed the Public Hearing.

        The minutes of the meeting of Regular Meeting of March 16, and April 20 were approved with corrections.

        Lucy Comly, 1455 Dean Street, inquired about modifications to an ordinance.

        The following resolutions were approved with a vote of five ayes, unless otherwise noted.
        Resolution 2004-147 authorizes the Supervisor to retain Excel Engineering to prepare plans and specifications for the dehumidification system at the Water Filtration Plant at a cost not to exceed $5,000.

        Resolution 2004-148 calls for a public hearing May 18, at 7:20 p.m. to consider the proposal to further consolidate Sewer district No. 6 for capital improvements.

        Resolution 2004-149 authorizes advertising for bids for repairs to and redevelopment of one or more existing wells in Consolidated Water District No. 1, as well as exploratory drilling for new wells at the site of the Niskayuna Water Filtration Plant.

        Resolution 2004-150 calls for a public hearing May 18, at 7 p.m. to amend Chapter 189, Article IV, entitled Design Standards of the Code, to change the width of utility easements within the streets right-of-way and payment and land required when a plat cannot be properly located within a subdivision.

        Resolution 2004-151 calls for a public hearing May 18 at 7:05 p.m. to consider amendment of Chapter 142, Section 4, entitled Permitted Noises to add residential heat pumps/air-conditioning units as an allowable sound.

        Resolution 2004-152 calls for a public hearing May 18 at 7:10 p.m. to consider deletion of Chapter 193 of the Code of the Town entitled Swimming Pools.

        Resolution 2004-153 calls for a public hearing May 18 at 7:15 p.m. to consider various amendments to the Zoning Ordinance.

        Resolution 2004-154 calls for a public hearing May 18 at 7:25 p.m. to consider amendments to the Zoning Ordinance and Zoning Map.

        Resolution 2004-155 authorizes the Supervisor to enter into a renewal agreement with Claredon National Insurance Company to provide all of the Town’s necessary insurance overages at a cost not to exceed $281,616.

        Resolution 2004-156 authorizes the Supervisor to retain Alvey, Cote & DiMura, Inc. to provide a professional appraisal of the Neighborhood Strip Center at 2333 Nott Street East at a cost not to exceed $7,500 with the cost of pretrial preparation, courtroom appearances, and testimony to be billed at the rate of $150 per hour, one-half of the cost for said services to be paid by the Town and one-half to be paid by the Niskayuna Central School District.

        Resolution 2004-157 authorizes the purchase of a GE Interlogix Model digital video recorder at a total cost not to exceed $1,495 and purchase two color vandal resistant dome cameras at a total cost not to exceed $549 for the Police Department to increase security at Avon Crest Park.

        Resolution 2004-158 accepts title to a portion of Catherines Woods Drive, and a portion of Riverhill Boulevard in the Catherines Woods Phase 2 Subdivision with title to a detention basin and open space.

        Resolution 2004-159 accepts title to a portion of Seneca Road in the Seneca Manor Subdivision, Section II.

        Resolution 2004-160 appoints two temporary seasonal laborers in the Parks Department and authorizes a rate change.

        Resolution 2004-161 appoints Ronald Lupi, to the full time position of Grounds Worker, at a salary of $12.538 per hour, effective May 10, 2004.

        Resolution 2004-162 employs additional persons in the Recreation Department Programs and authorizes rate changes.

        There being no further business to come before the Town Board, Supervisor Smith declared the meeting adjourned.


One Niskayuna Circle, Niskayuna, NY 12309
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