BALLSTON — The Town Zoning Board rejected an appeal Wednesday night made by Smart Growth Ballston and resident Dave Stern challenging the validity of the Rossi Planned Unit Development District (PUDD) issued for the Walmart project back in May, 2011. [Read more…]
BALLSTON — A proposed 265,000 square foot mall is being held up because of a complicated issue associated with a proposed connector road affecting both the Town of Ballston and the Village of Ballston Spa.
The developer, Frank Rossi, proposed building the Rossi Business and Commercial Park behind the McDonalds in Ballston. The PUDD for the project would allow the development of a wide variety of stores.
“There’s been talk of a market, anything from a garden shop, a clothing store or even a hardware store,” said Ballston Planning Board Chairman Dick Doyle.
The issue is the proposed U-shaped connector road, which would go between Dominick Drive near Ballston Spa National Bank and the intersection of Routes 67 and 50.
The PUDD for the project was approved in 2012. But a complication arose with the recent removal by the village of eight total parking spots from the Episcopal Church at the intersection of Routes 67 and 50, as well as from Low Street.
Doyle said Ballston Spa will be putting in a right-hand turning lane in order for tractor-trailers to make a turn at that intersection.
According to Doyle, the problem is the village never formally approved the removal of the spaces.
“Now Rossi is trying to put in the connector road, which the town wants, that goes between Dominick Drive and the intersection of Routes 67 and 50,” Doyle said.
Recently NYS DOT raised a question on that intersection. A meeting was held on April 23 between Doyle, Rossi, a DOT traffic engineer, Ballston Planning Board member Joan Eddy and Ballston Building Inspector Tom Johnson.
“We talked about what to do about the problem,” Doyle said. “DOT agrees with the connector road. It was always part of the Route 50 plan that they did in 2004.”
The problem is there is no closure to the portion of the proposed road that would extend into the village. The village needs to resolve the issue with the eight parking spaces before the connector road can be built.
“The Town of Ballston wants the road so I picked up the ball and I’ve been running with this to get the village to do their part,” Doyle said.
Doyle appeared before the Ballston Town Board at the May 14 meeting to discuss what needs to be done to resolve the issue.
Doyle sought permission from the town council to allow Supervisor Patti Southworth to sign a prepared letter to the village.
“The village tells me that once I sign that letter they will be able to take the eight parking places off of Route 67 and the whole problem will be solved and DOT will be happy and the connector road will progress,” Doyle said.
The letter says the Town of Ballston supports the connector road and encourages the Village of Ballston Spa to move forward with the plan to remove eight parking spaces, and urges the village to progress as quickly as possible to resolve the issue.
There are actually two issues involved with the Rossi project, Southworth said. The first is that Rossi has finally received authorization and agreement from Trustco Bank to bring the connector road from his project to Route 67.
When the project started, the Town Board wanted a connector road and a sewer line from the property out to Route 67.
“That will give us the ability to connect sewers to people down Route 67 and our industrial district,” Southworth said. “We weren’t able to complete that and get an agreement at that time but now the bank has an agreement with Mr. Rossi to make that happen.”
The second issue became clear at the meeting Doyle attended with DOT. The DOT representative said DOT will not authorize any DOT work permits on the state highway without the parking issue in the village being resolved.
“The Episcopal Church, as a religious institution, likes to have the parking out front and for brides to get out of the car,” Southworth said. “I sympathize with the church. I think we need to sit down and see if we can come to some kind of resolution on this issue. The project may never come to fruition if this issue can’t be resolved in some kind of agreeable fashion to all parties.”
Developer Frank Rossi agrees with Southworth.
“This would kill all development for the north end part of town,” Rossi said. “Other developers will run across the same problem.”
Rossi is confident that the issue will be resolved.
“Everybody is confident we will be able to do this,” Rossi said. “We’ve been really liberal with the church and we’re willing to give them parking spots across the street.”
Rossi said the project is a good thing for the town.
“We plan on a grocery store going in,” said Rossi. “That is something this town needs.”
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Building inspector to serve signed warrant on Wednesday
BY MARCI REVETTE
The situation of the seemingly abandoned property at 14 Lake Hill Rd. is one step closer to resolution, according to Tom Johnson, Building Inspector for the Town of Ballston.
The town has finally obtained a signed search warrant which at press time was scheduled to be executed on Wednesday, Sept. 12.
At that time Johnson and two appointed engineers from the firms of CT Male and Laberge will be accompanied by a deputy sheriff. They will enter and inspect the property to determine if it is safe.
“If it is determined to be unsafe, Supervisor Patti Southworth will have to petition the State Supreme Court,” Johnson said. “An order will have to be issued determining that the building is unsafe and can be repaired and secured or taken down and removed.”
The Town code Johnson is referring to is section 52-6 A, which gives the town board authority to pass a resolution directing the supervisor to petition the courts for a ruling designating the “structure to be a public nuisance and directing that it shall be repaired and secured or taken down and removed.”
Under Section 52-6 B the code puts the procedure for variance or appeal in compliance with New York State law, and under the authority of the state Secretary of State.
“Because of these codes, it has been a slow process, but we are much closer to a resolution,” said Southworth.
There have been issues with the property, which includes an empty house, off and on for over four years. The lawn has weeds and overgrown grass over four feet high and the house has visibly damaged porches and windows and doors.
Councilman Bill Goslin asked for action to be taken at the July 17 town board meeting and felt that the property was dangerous. “If someone walks up to that porch and they fall through it, we’re liable,” he said at the time. “This board has known about that for four years. If somebody starts a fire going in there smoking dope or whatever because it’s wide open and we’ve known it’s wide open, we’re liable.”
At the time he also felt that Johnson could have taken action under section 52-5 E of the town code, which states that the building inspector could declare the building an imminent danger and bypass the State Supreme Court and secure the building.
Goslin has since changed his stance. “I think it is up to the interpretation of town law by town officials,” he said. “We have to rely on the people we’ve given the job to and let them do their job.”
“My concern was if the town was liable if someone got injured on the property,” Goslin continued. “I’ve since learned that is not the case.”
“Tom Johnson is very professional in what he does, I will follow his lead,” he concluded.
Southworth agrees. “We have to make sure we are following the town code,” she said. “We anticipate a report at the end of this week by the engineers. At that time we will determine what action to take.”
Possible actions would include calling an emergency town board meeting, but both Goslin and Southworth felt the Sept. 25 town board meeting would be soon enough to determine the next step.