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Gazette Editorial - Stanford House

Posted by: "drittner@aol.com"

Thu Dec 28, 2006 11:10 pm (PST)

New proposal for Stanford House still bad

The latest development proposal for the Stanford property in Niskayuna is marginally better than the previous one, but not nearly good enough. The handsome, historic mansion would stay where it is, rather than be moved to the rear of the property, but the house itself is part and parcel of a lovely site that deserves to be saved, not trashed. It would be absurd to preserve this one building only to surround it by commercial development and isolate it by a wide new road bisecting the property, as would happen under the new proposal.

This is the developer’s response to a unanimous vote by the town’s Conservation Advisory Council in November, recommending a full environmental impact statement for the project. A full EIS not only would cost a lot of money and significantly delay the project, it would raise issues — such as impact on neighborhood quality of life, historic significance of building and grounds, loss of green and scenic space, and whether there are alternative development options — that could and should cause the town to reject the project.

So the developer’s new proposal should be seen as an attempt to avoid all that. And it really isn’t much of a concession. In fact, not moving the house (assuming that was ever actually feasible), would save the developer around $1 million. There would still be six new buildings, all with their own large parking lots, just like those at Mohawk Commons directly across Balltown Road to the east. To the west, the developed property would come within 120 feet of the CVS drugstore on State Street.

As numerous critics of the project have pointed out, Niskayuna doesn’t need more retail, especially when there are other marginal shopping centers in town not far away. But it does need a large piece of intact green space, especially when it has many mature trees and is of historical and archaeological significance.

Yes, the Stanford house would remain under the new proposal, but the impressive view from Balltown and State and the visual relief from nearby development would not. Indeed, the site would be chopped up to become just another part of that development. This doesn’t have to happen, and the town shouldn’t let it.