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Troy Planning Board Recommends Against Re-Zoning Consideration For Property Eyed For Development

A concept for an apartment complex in Troy
A concept for an apartment complex in Troy

A concept for a proposed apartment development along the Hudson River in Troy has hit a snag after a decision from the city’s planning commission Thursday night.

For months, neighbors and advocates from out-of-town conservation organizations have packed public meetings to oppose the potential development of a wooded, riverfront parcel in the northernmost section of Troy.

Developer Kevin Vandenburgh has floated the idea of building an apartment complex on the site, but before that could happen, the property would need to be re-zoned from single-family residential.

However, on Thursday, Troy’s planning commission voted to recommend that the city council not consider a re-zoning of the property.

Planning board member Sara Wengert made the motion for the recommendation, which passed 4 to 1.

“There are three factors that have made an impact on me,” said Wengert.

Wengert’s three main concerns were an increase in density’s impact on traffic and utilities, impacts on green space, and interference with the archeological history of the site.

The neighborhood organization Friends of the Mahicantuck formed to protect the land from development, highlighting the importance of the land to native peoples and the Schagticoke First Nations.

Members of the planning board considered how a re-zoning – namely, the potential development it could bring – would impact the history of the site. Here’s planning board member Suzanne Spellen.

“It’s a real rock and a hard place to me. Because I would want to see the community be able to have access to the riverfront, I would like to see some sort of memorial or park or artifacts shown,” said Spellen.

Wengert dismissed Spellen’s suggestion.

“I question the value of the public access as described in narrative. And the memorial in my opinion would be somewhat insulting,” said Wengert.

Planning commission member Barbara Higbee – the only member Thursday who voted against the negative recommendation – said she believed it’s more feasible to protect the assets of the site if it were re-zoned.

“I always find single-family zoning in a situation like this just to be counter-productive. And I know it’s hard to make the planned development work for the site, but I know there’s a better chance of that,” said Higbee.

Higbee added…

“The one thing we would have to look out for, though, as it proceeds, is that we don’t always jump to the maximum allowed under the zoning. At every point, that’s always the worry,” said Higbee.

Adam Schultz, attorney for the developer, defended the rezoning, reminding commissioners that any decision would have to fit into the city’s comprehensive plan – a document that itself is due for an update in 2023.

“It’s important for the public, it’s important for the board to understand that zoning is not a static process. There are procedures in place for there to be changes when appropriate,” said Schultz.

But with the planning board’s decision not to recommend the consideration of re-zoning of the property, it’s another hurdle for potential development – and a small victory for neighbors and advocates.

The decision whether to consider re-zoning now goes to the Troy city council.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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