The Town of Clifton Park in southern Saratoga County is seeking input on a proposal to re-zone a portion of the high-traffic area near Adirondack Northway Exit 9.
Town supervisor Phil Barrett likes to point out that when he took office 18 years ago, Clifton Park’s commercial center near Northway Exit 9 was facing challenges.
“We had empty retail space, empty buildings. So redeveloping that area and bringing services to town that people desire was our real goal,” said Barrett.
Over the years, the town attracted big box retailers like Target and Boscov’s. But retail is not the only answer, according to Barrett.
In 2015, Clifton Park adopted a Town Center Plan, which re-zoned areas west of the Northway to help attract a diverse spectrum of development.
The plan also highlights the importance of preserving open space. Earlier this year the town finalized the purchase of 37 acres of undeveloped land within the town center from the Shenendehowa School District.
Clifton Park is now entering Phase Two to address portions of the town east of I-87.
“If you’re not continuously planning for the future and positioning the municipality correctly for the future, you will fall behind and the realities of the day will consume you,” said Barrett. “That’s what we’re ensuring will not happen to Clifton Park.”
Barrett says that to the thousands of commuters who pass through Clifton Park each day, the town’s center is recognizable as a “regional mall” area. He says it’s possible to keep that approach while developing a denser “downtown” district.
At a Tuesday night presentation, Jackie Hakes of MJ Engineering and Land Surveying walked town residents through a zoning amendment for the areas between I-87 and Route 9.
“What we wanted to do, as we were thinking through this, is not start with something completely different. We wanted to work at what was working within the current Town Center zone west of the Northway and see if that could apply and make sense east of the Northway,” said Hakes.
As of now, the Town Center expansion area would include three separate zones. A node north of Route 146 would be split, classified as a General Zone in one portion, and a General/Neighborhood Zone Hybrid in another.
A southern node between Route 146 and Sitterly Road would be classified as a Neighborhood Zone.
The goal is to make the areas more attractive and flexible to developers.
One possible outcome is attracting residential development in spaces currently taken up by expansive parking lots.
Planning Department Director John Scavo explained that more people living in the Town Center could potentially attract more public transportation options from the Capital District Transportation Authority.
“They’re gonna look at 20 units per acre. Our zoning in the Town Center with mixed-use development has the opportunities to approach that. We didn’t with our prior zoning so it was very difficult to sustain multi-modal transportation,” said Scavo.
As residents offered comments on the zoning amendment, a concern that resonated was traffic and pedestrian safety.
“Crossing 146, you know, there are people going right when they’re not supposed to and there are people running red lights when they’re not supposed to and it’s dangerous,” said one resident.
Any zoning amendment would require approval from the town board and would be subject to a public hearing.