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New development proposed for busy Ballston intersection

Thursday, October 4, 2012
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— A developer wants to build 300 housing units and some businesses at V-Corners, the intersection of routes 50 and 67, a property where developments have been pitched before.

The Buck Group partnership on Tuesday proposed to the Town Board five apartment buildings, at least 72 owner-occupied senior condominiums and two retail structures that would include housing units above them.

The development would be built on three parcels of land on the southwest corner of V-Corners, just south of the village of Ballston Spa.

Two of the parcels, including Janet’s V-Corners store, are owned by Larry Levine, and the third is owned by John Forshey.

The Buck Group is under contract to buy the 29 acres and has revamped a previous proposal made by another developer.

The property borders lands owned by the Ballston Spa Central School District and the Ballston Manor housing development.

A small grocery store, pharmacy and bank may be among the businesses there, said Dave Osher, director of development for the Buck Group, based in Whitesboro. The partnership is looking at creating an 18,000-square-foot grocery. These smaller stores are becoming a trend, he said.

“They’re going back to what it used to be and what it should be.”

On Tuesday night, Town Board members raised concerns about the density of the buildings, traffic in the area and whether there would be an influx of school-age students. The Ballston Spa Central School District is one of the only districts in the area whose enrollment is growing, thanks at least in part to the development happening around the GlobalFoundries computer chip plant in Malta.

But Osher said very few children live in other apartment developments his partner has built.

“We really don’t impact the schools that greatly, and we give them more of a benefit.”

Although a full traffic study hasn’t yet been presented to the town, it will show that the apartments’ impact on Route 50 is “minimal,” Osher said. Written plans say a traffic signal and turn lanes may be required when a grocery store or other big retail use goes up, but not before.

The development would have three entrances from Route 50. The northernmost one lines up with a spot identified in a 2005 Capital District Transportation Committee study as a potential future roundabout.

A resident at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting pointed out that traffic already backs up on Route 67 during morning rush hour as people wait to get on the Northway at Exit 12.

Other residents said although many people want a grocery store in town, the area has enough pharmacies and banks.

Town Board member Mary Beth Hynes thought the proposal was heavy on residential units for that location.

“I feel I would rather see more retail than the 36,000 square feet that you propose,” she said.

The property is zoned highway commercial, but the developer has applied for a planned unit development district, which would allow the developer and town to come up with unique zoning for the property.

Osher’s concept includes five distinct zones: two for residential buildings, one for a conservation area and two for commercial buildings.

The property has public water, but sewer service would have to be extended about 3,000 feet from the town’s nearest sewer line.

To advance the plan, the Town Board would refer it to the Planning Board, which would fully review the plans and then recommend that the Town Board either approve or deny the project, said Thomas Johnson, town building inspector. The Town Board’s vote is then the final word.

If approved, the Buck Group envisions building the development over a five- to seven-year period, with the residential units coming first.

Here are some of the details as proposed:

• Five apartment buildings with three levels of apartments totaling 166 units would be built over a parking deck.

• A separate, 7,000-square-foot clubhouse would also include 38 housing units.

• Two hundred of the apartments would be Class A market rate, featuring hardwood floors and granite countertops and renting for $1,300 to $1,700 a month, Osher said.

• A 5.57-acre area would be conserved, including wetlands, an existing man-made pond and trees.

• An 18,900-square-foot, two-story retail structure would have 12 housing units upstairs.

• A 17,300-square-foot retail pad would have eight housing units.

• Six buildings in a cluster would comprise 71,000 square feet and contain 72 to 76 senior condominium units and a 1,235-square-foot clubhouse built over a parking deck.

• Drawings include two outdoor swimming pools, a garden and a dog park.

• The conservation area might include a building that could be used for a historian’s office or senior center.

• The company plans to plant 1,500 trees to serve as a buffer around the property.

• The Janet’s V-Corners store, which the state Historic Preservation Office considers “historically significant,” would be moved to another spot on the property.

• Parking garages and surface lots sprinkled around the property would include some 940 spaces.

There is a history of big plans at the intersection.

In a previous development proposed two years ago, Lawrence and Janet Levine wanted to put 132 senior housing rental units on the property.

The property is also part of a stretch of land that in 2005 was proposed for development of a strip mall with an anticipated national “big-box” store as an anchor. That plan, by Widewaters Group of DeWitt, called for a 278,000-square-foot shopping center.

And it’s across the intersection from the site that would have held a Wal-Mart Supercenter if that company’s plans had gone as they proposed at the time.

The latter two proposals met with a groundswell of opposition from hundreds of local residents who attended Town Board meetings and eventually persuaded town officials to rewrite zoning law to prohibit large-scale development without public hearings and Town Board approval.

 
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