Ballston Sets Date for Public Hearing on Water District Extension

Ballston Sets Date for Public Hearing on Water District Extension

BALLSTON – The Town Board advanced the ongoing discussion over the decision to extend the water district to the proposed Katz Planned Unit Development District on Route 50 during Monday’s board meeting, setting a public hearing for the proposed extension for March 14.

Ballston Sets Date for Public Hearing on Water District Extension

Ballston Town Board members discuss the extension of the water district to the proposed Katz PUDD on Route 50./Photo by Ashley Onyon.

The Town Board initially passed a resolution to extend the water district to the Katz PUDD last May, however no construction has resulted from the passage due to continued outcry from residents, questions of legality from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and questions from the Ballston Planning Board.

At the September board meeting, Councilman Chuck Curtiss, who voted against the water district extension, read aloud a letter sent from the Department of Agriculture and Markets to Supervisor Tim Szczepaniak.

The letter questioned the legality of the water district extension given the location of the proposed subdivision in the agricultural district and a resolution passed by the Town Board in 2004 restricting lateral water connections to agricultural uses and existing non-agricultural uses.

The Katz PUDD would consist of a three-story building with 23,000 square feet of retail space on the ground 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 Town Board authorized Supervisor Szczepaniak to send a preliminary notice of intent to the Department of Agriculture and Markets detailing plans for the water district extension and requesting a review of the plans at the request of the developer’s attorney in November.

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Mary Elizabeth Slevin, the attorney for Katz Excavation and Construction, said at the time that the project had previously been reviewed by the board and the move to have the project reviewed by the Department of Agriculture and Markets was made out of caution.

According to Slevin there had been irregularities when the water extension was first approved, so developers were repeating the process out of prudence while giving the agricultural department a chance to review the project.

The intent of the letter was to receive a recommendation from the department on whether the extension should be approved.

If the department recommended that the extension not be approved, the board would have to address any negative findings from the department before moving forward with the extension.

As of Monday’s, meeting the Department of Agriculture and Markets had not responded to the letter from Szczepaniak, which Town Attorney James Walsh said constituted consent to proceed in the way that the town outlined it intended to in the letter.

Walsh later added that details of the project had also been sent to the Saratoga Agriculture District seeking comment in November without any response.

Slevin appeared before the board again on Monday requesting that the board take lead agency for the State Environmental Quality Review for the extension, approve the final notice of intent and agriculture impact statement and set a public hearing for March 14.

Slevin noted that the zoning and availability of water changes throughout the site. “This is a project that is right off of Route 50, water is currently available right off the edge of the project. A portion of the project is currently zoned commercial and a portion is actually within the water district already. It’s not the entire project that the request is for, it is for a portion of it,” she said.

Slevin added that the water district extension was a critical component of the project and that an answer as to whether the extension would be part of the project was needed.

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During public comment, resident Collette Jasinski spoke out against the project saying that the proposed three-story buildings are not in character with the town and are not supported by the fire department.

Jasinski also criticized the lack of a buffer zone along adjacent properties that feature pastures for animals, the extension of the water district into the agricultural district and the density of the project impacting the drainage of wetlands on the property potentially effecting adjacent properties.

She went on to question whether the project was right for the location, acknowledging that the property should be developed. “It is in the middle of the only part of our town that hasn’t been really developed by a village on one end or a village on the other end,” she said.

“It should be a showcase of our town. It should be an opportunity to develop commercial properties that would service the rural character and dignity of our town. Not another apartment complex.”

When it came time to vote on the three resolutions on the water district extension, the resolutions declaring the Town Board as lead agency for the SEQRA review and setting a public hearing passed by a vote of 4 to 1 with Councilman Curtiss voting against the measures.

Prior to voting to set the public hearing Curtiss again raised questions over the legality of the water district extension.

He said, “What I still haven’t gotten clear is an explanation on, if the state has handed us a determination and order, this clearly violates our ag district and we’re violating our own laws, how can we continue to go forward on this?”

Town Attorney Walsh said that the state’s determination had raised an issue with how the Town Board had passed the resolution extending the water district initially and that by issuing the notice of intent and holding a public hearing the board had followed the proper procedure to move forward with the water district extension.

Before voting on the resolution approving the final notice of intent and the agriculture impact statement for the proposed water district extension, Councilman John Antoski asked whether the measure was meant to show agreement with the impact statement.

Walsh explained that the resolution acknowledged that notice of the board’s intended action had been given to the Department of Agriculture and Markets and the Saratoga Agriculture District and that the legally required amount of time had been given for a response from the departments.

He went on to say, “We told them that we were going to do it, now we are proceeding in doing it. So, they’ve got our preliminary notice of what the intention was and that would be us saying we are going to move forward with putting the water in.”

The resolution approving the final notice was passed by a vote of 3 to 2 with Antoski and Curtiss voting against the measure.

When asked why he voted against the resolution, Antoski explained that extending the water district into the agricultural district is against the town’s comprehensive plan and that restrictions had been created limiting connections to the water main on Goode Street when it was first constructed. This is the main that the Katz PUDD would connect to.

“Until you get a change, whether the comp plan changes or there is a public outcry saying that ‘we want more development,’ I don’t understand how the board can pass water going into that ag land,” Antoski said.

The public hearing on the extension of the water district to the Katz PUDD on Route 50 will take place on March 14, at 6 p.m. prior to the regular Town Board meeting at 6:30 p.m.

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Reporter Ashley Onyon is a graduate of the journalism program at SUNY Albany. She wrote for the Mohawk Valley Compass for two years covering the GASD Board of Education. She has contributed articles to The Mohawk Valley Independent and the annual journal Upstream.

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