Residence Inn Hotel – Proposal is Back!

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 for butterflies.

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 this proposal.


Read more . . .

Crossgates Casts 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