ALBANY: First proposed in the fall of 2003, this “Residence
Inn” proposal for the Albany Pine Bush is back.
The developer has written a Draft Environmental Impact
Statement (DEIS). The public may now comment on this proposal
and the DEIS at the hearing scheduled for Monday, April 18
at 7:00 at Albany City Hall, Eagle Street, Albany.
This proposed development is on about 4 acres of land owned
(or was owned by — see below) by Pyramid Crossgates.
It is completely adjacent to one of the three populations
of Karner Blue butterflies in the Pine Bush.
The Common Council is being asked to re-zone this land
from its current designation as residential to highway commercial,
so that the hotel can be built.
When Crossgates was built, Pyramid was forced to set aside
about 5 acres of Karner Blue butterfly habitat. This habitat
is the area surrounded by a high white fence in the Crossgates
parking lot. The site where the hotel is proposed to be built
is just north of this Karner Blue habitat.
There is one single overriding issue for this development
is that the land where the proposed hotel is to be built
was illegally bulldozed.
Since this hotel was proposed, Save the Pine Bush has asked
the City of Albany to enforce environmental laws. In 1998,
this parcel of land was illegally cleared, in violation of
the SPDES permit (#4-0130-00007/2002, issued on 7/6/94) given
to Pyramid Crossgates.
What good are environmental laws that protect endangered
species and habit, if municipalities do not enforce them?
Pyramid Crossgates, from the day they illegally bulldozed
this property in 1998 until today are in violation of their
permit. The City of Albany should not allow Pyramid Crossgates
to get away with this and should require Pyramid Crossgates
to put back the site to its original state.
There are many other reasons why the Common Council should
reject this proposal.
The Common Council should not accept this proposal until
the Common Council determines what the City of Albany’s policy on extinction
of species. Because this land is completely adjacent to known Karner
Blue Butterfly habitat, it is extremely likely that this site was
once home to the Karner Blue. If the Common Council allows this
development, the City is telling the developer that it is OK to
bulldoze the property, and then say there won’t be
any environmental impact, because the land was bulldozed.
Though Save the Pine Bush asked the Common Council to include
certain facts in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement
(DEIS), the Council did not, which makes it difficult for
the public to make intelligent comments.
One fact Save the Pine Bush would like to know is who is
the current owner of the property. The proposed hotel is
to be built on 5 lots.
Pyramid Corporation, as “Washington Commons Associates” sold
these five lots on 12/29/04 to R.I Heritage Inn of Albany,
LLC. whose address is 128 Rear Washington Avenue Extension.
128 Rear Washington Avenue Extension is an empty field and
is one of the parcels proposed for the hotel.
It seems odd that a company that can pay $1.7 million with
no mortgage for these five residentially zoned parcels has
an office that is a vacant open field.
In addition, the NYS Office of Real Property lists this
sale as “not
at arms length” which means there is a relationship
between the buyer and the seller. The applicant should be
required to state what the relationship is and the principals
should be identified in the DEIS.
The current assessed value of these five lots total only
$245,000. Buying the land at almost 7 times its assessed
value raises questions about whether or not the applicant
will apply for a 485b tax break. The DEIS should not be accepted
until the applicant states whether or not they will apply
for a 485b tax break.
On January 14, 2004, DEC wrote a letter expressing that
this site is subject to the SPDES permit issued by DEC for
the Karner Blue Butterfly hill. The applicant has denied
that this land is subject to the permit. The DEIS needs to
include a letter from DEC which conclusively states whether
or not this land is subject to the SPDES permit.
Of course, the single most important question raised by
this proposal, is, “How will this proposed hotel, if built, affect the ability
of the Karner Blue to survive?” Because the land was bulldozed
illegally, we don’t know the type or quality of Karner
Blue habitat that may have been there. Asphalt is never good
Save the Pine Bush believes that this land should be protected,
and no hotels should be built there.
The Common Council needs to hear from you! Please come
to the hearing on Monday, April 18 and voice your opposition
to this proposal.
Call your Common Council Member. To find out who your Common
Council member is, call the City Clerk at 434-5090. This
proposal is in The Honorable Sandra Fox’s ward. Please
write to Ms. Fox at 42 Moreland Avenue, Albany, New York
12203 or call her at 438-8085 and express your concerns about
Read more . . .
a Dark Shadow Over the Pine Bush Dec 03/Jan 04
Crossgates Wants to Build a Hotel
in the Pine Bush, Will they never go away?, Sept/Oct 04
Crossgates Hotel Proposal in the Pine
Bush - Scoping Document, Oct 04