by Lynne Jackson
GUILDERLAND, NY: Rapp Road Development, a corporate entity of Pyramid/Crossgates, is proposing to build on about 46 acres of land. Originally, the proposal was to build 222 apartments on 20 acres of land adjacent to the Pine Bush preserve. After the Town Planning Board appointed themselves the lead agency, the project was exapanded to include a proposed Costco and an undefined commercial/residential development on an additional 26 acres of land.
The proposal is huge. To put this proposed development in perspective, the original mall spread over 61 acres, the expansion in 1995 added another 46 acres to the original size to make a total of 107 acres. This proposed development is as big as the 1995 expansion, and 42% of the original size of the mall.
In this day and age of climate change and the sixth major extinction of species, it is extremely important now more than ever, for the Town of Guilderland to protect the Pine Bush ecosystem and all of the plants and animals that make thier home there.
The Town Planning Board is holding a “virtual public hearing” on Wednesday, May 13. This project, if built, will make a huge change in the Town of Guilderland. For the Planning Board to hold a hearing during this time of a pandemic seems grossly unfair. There are many people who wish to be heard. The Town Planning Board is limiting comments of participants to three minutes (plus 30 seconds to finish up). If the technical setup is the same for this hearing as for the last Planning Board meeting, it will exclude people. First, one can see and hear the Planning Board on cable TV – if one has that particular TV station which is not available outside of the Town of Guilderland. The Planning Board will livestream the hearing, but, sometimes the livestream does not work. When people call in to make comments, the callers do not hear the public hearing, instead, they just hear “on hold” music. One cannot call in using a phone and hear the meeting. Also, people viewing the meeting either with a computer or on cable TV are not able to hear what the callers say.
Save the Pine Bush will be making written comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The comments will be written by Christopher Walker, the legal intern from the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic who is representing Save the Pine Bush in this matter. In additon, Save the Pine Bush has hired several experts including an expert in the Karner Blue butterfly, birds, soils, trees and other specialties. The reports written by these experts will inform Save the Pine Bush comments.
The DEIS for the proposal is inadequate. The report includes two appedices that supposedly review the “vegetation, wildlife and soil conditions” on the proposed sites. These two appedices are unsigned, and do not describe the method by which the vegetation and animal studies were conducted. Common local species were missed in the list of species found on the land. Wetlands reports are missing.
On March 26, Pyramid clear cut Site 2, the site of the proposed Costco. This paved a way for a federal suit to be filed against Crossgates. The plaintiffs on the lawsuit are four neighbors of the proposed Costco and the owner of a gas station. The suit was filed in the Northern District of New York by James Bacon of New Paltz.
Mr. Bacon said, “In more than 30 years of involvement in SEQRA proceedings, I have never heard of an agency allowing the clear-cutting of woodlands during the SEQRA process. Clear cutting part of the Costco site improperly pre- determines critical aspects of the SEQRA review such as alternative site layouts and designs which is significant for a project potentially resulting in more than 300 residential units, 275,000 sq. ft of commercial/retail use and 50,000 sq. ft. of offices while also depending upon the alienation of portions of five Town Roads. The scope of federal and state violations coupled with the scope of the project requires re-establishment of lead agency allowing another involved agency to adhere to SEQRA’s procedures and act as “stewards of the… land, and living resources” with “an obligation to protect the environment for the use and enjoyment of this and all future generations” as required by the New York State Environmental Conservation Law. ECL 8-§0103(8).”
Brief description of proposed development
|Click image to view larger image |
Screen shot of map on the Town of Guilderland website, included here to show general location of the proposed project. The complete map is found in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). To view full map, go the the Town of Guilderland website, click on Planning Board, then select “Environmental Impact Statement – Rapp Road/Western Avenue Mixed Use Redevelopment Projects”.
Then, click on Draft Environmental Impact Statement – Figures. Direct link: https://www.townofguilderland.org/sites/guilderlandny/files/uploads/deis_text_figures.pdf.
All of the proposed developments are in the newly created Transit Oriented Development District (“TOD”). The total acres to be developed is approximately 46.
The proposal includes two five-story buildings and three two-story buildings with 84 covered and 278 surface parking spaces, made up of 222 one- and two-bedroom apartments and 3,900 square feet of commercial space on a ±19 acre site on Rapp Road.
Potential future development on the northern portion of the site could include 90 apartment units. Site 1 is bordered by the Pine Bush Preserve to the north.
This ±16 acres site is proposed for development of ±160,000 square feet Costco retail use with gas station and 700 surface parking spaces. This is the site of the “ghost subdivision;” Pyramid has purchased most of the houses in this subdivision years ago, and have left them vacant.
This ±11.34 acre site, according to Pyramid, has no specific proposal, but Pyramid says this site could include 115,000 SF of retail, 50,000 SF of office space, and 48 apartments.
Published in May/June 2020
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