Rotterdam residents oppose plan for apartment house
ROTTERDAM Mike Gabriele already has a clear view of an apartment building off the back deck of his Walnut Avenue home.
The trees that Gabriele said were promised as a buffer more than 25 years ago turned into a stockade fence, which only blocks the first floor of the two-story, nine-unit complex from his well-manicured backyard. From his deck, he can see the building’s Dumpster, the parking lot and most of the structure Tom DeLorenzo built just months after Gabriele constructed his home on what was once a wooded dead-end street buffered from the bustle of Curry Road.
Now, he fears the rest of the wooded buffer standing between his home and a handful of others on nearby Floral Avenue will fall prey to development if Rotterdam approves a zone change DeLorenzo requested this spring. The change from single- and two-family residential to multi-family residential would allow DeLorenzo to build a new apartment building that would be situated less than 30 feet away from either the front or side of Gabriele’s home.
“I walk out my door and there’s going to be an apartment building right there,” he said Tuesday, gesturing to the wooded parcel.
Gabriele is among 38 residents who signed a petition opposing the zone change, which is under consideration by members of the Town Board. They fear developing the parcel for multi-family use will significantly disturb their privacy and severely diminish their property values.
DeLorenzo disagrees. He said the four-unit building he is proposing to build on the property will have a negligible impact on the area and ultimately help bolster Rotterdam’s property tax base.
“There’s plenty of land back there and we’d accommodate the neighbors by putting up all the appropriate screening,” he said Tuesday.
Already, DeLorenzo said he’s pledged to reduce the number of units in the building to accommodate concerns raised by neighboring property owners. He said the initial proposal of up to 10 units was whittled down to six earlier this month and then down to four after an outpouring of criticism from nearby property owners.
DeLorenzo also pledged to situate windows away from other residential properties and have an entrance to the building off Curry Road, instead of Floral Avenue. He said the project would also rely on all available techniques to shield light pollution and other negative impacts of the development.
“I know they don’t want to see anything go there, but this is land that we have the right to use,” he said.
County records show DeLorenzo purchased the property — about three-quarters of an acre — from Sebastiano Occhino in February. He paid $125,000 for the land, according to information provided by the county Real Property Services.
Members of the town Planning Commission forwarded the zone change request to the Town Board with a positive recommendation in April. But because of changes made to the proposed development, the Town Board decided to send the project back to the commission for a new opinion before voting on the zone change.
Gabriele is holding out hope that the board will see the impact such a development will have on surrounding homes. He said the board should recognize the town’s zoning code instead of changing it at the whim of a developer.
“They should be there to protect our neighborhood,” he said of the town’s zoning laws.