Discussion of Katz PUDD Stalls Over Possible Legal Issue

Discussion of Housing Project Stalls Over Possible Legal Issue

BALLSTON – Discussion on the proposed housing development on Route 50 stalled during Wednesday’s Planning Board meeting, due in part to possible legal issues over the Town Board’s extension of the water district to serve the site.

The proposed Katz Planned Unit Development District would consist of a three-story building with 23,000 square feet of retail space on the bottom floor, 20 apartments on the second floor and 20 apartments on the third floor. The project also calls for 121 multifamily units in 11 buildings and 57 single-family lots. The property consists of 90.85 acres of land in two zoning districts — 17 acres are zoned business-highway and the remaining 73.85 acres are zoned rural-residential.

Discussion of Katz PUDD Stalls Over Possible Legal Issue

Ballston Planning Board July 28, 2016./Photo by Ashley Onyon.

Board Chairman Richard Doyle said the board received letters Wednesday afternoon before the meeting  regarding possible violations of state laws by the town. The letters were in regard to the passage of two resolutions by the Town Board on May 31 for the extension of the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake water district into the agricultural district to service the Katz project and a proposed development on Goode Street.

The first of three letters was a notice from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets to the Town Board stating that the extension of the water district to the proposed 12-lot subdivision on Goode Street was under investigation for possible violation of the Agriculture and Market Law.

The letter notes that the extension of the water main violates the provisions of a resolution passed by the Town Board in 2004 restricting connections to the water line to agricultural uses or existing non-agricultural uses.

The second letter came from law firm Bowitch & Coffey LLC, which represents the community group Ballston United. The letter states that the resolutions by the Town Board were “in violation of the Town’s preexisting resolutions restricting water line extensions, several state laws and in direct contravention of the Town’s Comprehensive Plan.”

According to the letter, Ballston United alleges that the board’s passage of the extensions violated previous resolutions from 1996, 2001 and 2004. The group also claims that the board failed to observe town law, Agriculture and Markets Law and the state Environmental Quality Review Act.

Scott Lansing of Lansing Engineering appeared before the board representing the project and requested a state environmental quality review for the site.

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According to Ballston United the town did not provide maps and plans for the extension, nor did it prepare a petition with residents’ signatures or file the order with the county clerk within ten days. The board failed to complete an state environmental review, the group said.

The letter asks that the Town Board rescind the water district resolutions to avoid lengthy litigation to obtain a court order requiring the town to rescind the resolutions.

The final letter came from attorneys Bartlett, Pontiff, Stewart & Rhodes P.C. and Bowitch & Coffey LLC. They were addressed to Thomas Benuscak, who owns the property on Goode Street poised for development, and property owner Mark Katz, notifying them that Ballston United considers the extension of the water districts to be a violation of the law.

The letter warns that the water district extensions may be rescinded and cautions against any work on the proposed development sites until the legal process is complete, as there may not be water hookups available for the completed projects.

While Doyle said Katz could continue planning his project, he recommended looking into the legal issues associated with the project and reaching out to the agricultural district for feedback.

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Residents raised additional concerns over the development’s proximity to farms, the site’s rural zoning, the density of the project and potential traffic hazards on the accident prone stretch of road.

One of the founders of Ballston United, Kevin Draina, questioned the need for additional commercial property, adding that he counted 21 properties or buildings for sale or lease in areas permitted for commercial use.

“I believe Mr. Katz already has a building a quarter of a mile down the road that has been vacant for ten years, since it was built,” he said. “Not to mention the plethora of commercial property outside of the [agriculture] district or the rural district that has been for sale for years.”

Bill Crawford, assistant chief of the Burnt Hills Fire Department,  said the addition of just two three-story homes the town would require the purchase a ladder truck for the fire department under Insurance Service Organization guidelines. Crawford estimated the cost to be around $1 million.

The Planning Board did not take any action on the district during the meeting. In other news, the board granted conditional approval to the Kelley Farms Mixed Use Traditional Neighborhood Development on Eastline Road.

The project consists of 70 multi-family units, 27 single-family townhouse units, approximately 44,000 square feet of commercial space and 2.75 acres of park space on 26.55 acres. The project was approved unanimously on the condition that the project developers include language assigning legal responsibility for the ownership and maintenance of the stormwater management equipment to the property owners.

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