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9

Save the Pine Bush Joins with Residents of the Dunes to Win Big Charlie Touhey Cannot Build His Office Buildings

Save the Pine Bush Joins with
Residents of the Dunes to Win Big

Charlie Touhey Cannot Build His Office Buildings

by Lynne Jackson

August 5, 1996 will go down as a day of victory for the Pine Bush.
The Albany Common Council voted 12-3 not to re-zone 300 Washington
Avenue Extension to commercial, stopping Charlie Touhey from
constructing an office complex on the site.

The fight to save this 12-acre parcel of land from destruction
started in 1991, when Save the Pine Bush successfully sued the City
of Albany over its re-zoning approval. Judge Cobb, ruling for Save
the Pine Bush, stated that the City could not approve this
development because there were not 2,000 fire-manageable acres of
Pine Bush set aside in the preserve. The next higher court, the
Appellate Division, upheld this ruling.

Though a relatively small site at 12 acres in size, this site is
important because it is connected to the 80-acre parcel on the corner
of Route 155 and Washington Avenue Extension, which the State
purchased for preserve in 1994. Also, young pitch pine trees are
found here and it is restorable to the Pine Bush ecosystem.

Charlie Touhey came back last year asking again for his re-zoning.
The Common Council held a hearing in April, 1995 about the re-zoning
issue, which many residents of the Dunes housing development (located
adjacent to this property) attended. Though the hearing was a year
and a half ago, it was not until this past May that the Common
Council was asked to consider the re-zoning for a vote.
At a meeting in May, the Zoning Committee was asked to review the
project. No residents of the Dunes was notified of the meeting, which
concerned Carol Wallace, chair of the Zoning Committee, very much.
Over her objections, the Zoning Committee voted to allow the full
Common Council to vote on the issue.

A hearing before the Common Council was scheduled for July 1.
Members of Save the Pine Bush invited residents of the Dunes to a
meeting, and then, with their help, passed out flyers announcing the
hearing and urging everyone to speak out against the project. When
more than 25 residents of the Dunes went to City Hall that night to
speak at the hearing, they were told the hearing was cancelled and
were not allowed to speak. The reason given for the cancellation was
that the one required hearing on the project was held in April, 1995,
and that everyone had had a chance to speak at that time and no more
hearings were needed. This explanation sounded ridiculus to the Dunes
residents upset at the prospect of having an office complex as a new
neighbor.

The next week, Nicholas Coluccio, the alderman for the Dunes,
scheduled another hearing for the residents. Though many residents
attended, only three of the fifteen Common Council members came.

During the ensuing weeks, flurries of leaflets were written and
passed out by Dunes residents, urging them to contact all the
aldermen and explain their opposition to the re-zoning. Residents and
members of Save the Pine Bush attended the Common Council meetings,
often signing up to speak during the 1/2 hour public comment period
at the beginning of the meeting.

The phone calls and letters paid off! The Common Council defeated the
re-zoning, thus not allowing Charlie Touhey to build two office
buildings in the Pine Bush.
Of course, Charlie Touhey could propose to build residences on the
property. However, he would still need to go through the
environmental review at the Planning Board level and Save the Pine
Bush is going to keep a close watch on any proposals that may be made
for this land.

This is the first time the Common Council of the City of Albany has
denied a re-zoning in the Pine Bush in more than twenty years. This
victory was a long time coming!


Printed August, 1996

 


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