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Agree to Disagree: Malta Town Board Doubles Down on Sprawl

Tim Dunn, a member of the Malta Town Board and chairman of its Economic Development Committee, sent out a press release Monday evening that began: “In a major announcement, the Town acted today to eliminate the recreation mitigation fee charged for commercial development through approving an update to the Town Wide Generic Environmental Impact Statement (TWGEIS).  In doing so, the Town Board removed a major impediment to commercial development in the Town that had impaired commercial investment.”

The release had its desired effect, generating news stories in three daily newspapers and the Capital District Business Review, as Dunn happily reported back to another economic development panel the next evening.

The Town Board’s thinking is that it can afford to give up the fees because all this expected commercial development will spur increased sales tax revenue, and, according to the press release, “This change will not have any direct impact on the Town budget, as mitigation fees are collected and expended outside of regular Town revenue and expenses.”

Those fees do add to the quality of life though, preserving farms and expanding parks and trails. We’re apparently going to be trading that in for more traffic and suburban sprawl, especially on Routes 9 and 67.

At Monday’s meeting, the board also discussed proposed design standards for the new “commercial corridors”, according to the Journal news story, which said: “The town had previously set a requirement that new developments create ‘amenity space’ on five percent of the property, meaning that land being developed must include an area for recreation, seating or other purposes. The new guidelines would extend the requirement to redeveloped sites, so that five percent of the land being redeveloped must be made into amenity space.”

So it looks like we’ll be getting a shrub and a bench, along with more traffic that makes it unsafe or impossible to turn left, while losing revenue that could preserve open space.

In the neighboring town of Milton, on the other hand, they are using fees from developers to add to the gorgeous (and fairly new) Boice Family Park. In both Milton and the town of Ballston, there are active farmland protection committees.

Action is being taken to preserve Malta Ridge Orchard and Gardens, but that was accomplished by the prior Town Board working with Saratoga PLAN (and using mostly state money).

The current Town Board’s policies seem unlikely to accomplish even their utilitarian goal of boosting tax revenue. That’s because they are based on an out-of-date suburban sprawl model which is not attractive to anyone except some developers angling for a fast buck, and those politicians who are anxious to accommodate them.

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Reporter Bob Conner has worked 21 years in various positions at the Gazette of Schenectady, and before that four years as a reporter at the Glens Falls Post-Star. He won two first-place writing awards from the New York Associated Press Association for newspapers with circulation between 50,000 and 250,000. Bob has a Phi Beta Kappa bachelor’s degree in journalism from New York University, and an associate’s degree in chemical dependency counseling from HVCC. He is a published author and is currently writing a historical novel about the last four months in the life of Ulysses S.Grant

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