Viewpoint: Proposed land use changes along Mohawk illegal, harmful
The changes to the zoning of land along the Mohawk River being proposed by the Glenville Town Board are wrong for a number of reasons. They show a total disregard of the town’s comprehensive master plan and open up the river valley corridor to uses that will significantly alter this area forever.
The proposed changes appear to have come about as a result of one area businessman, James Denney, looking to move his construction yard to an area near the town’s western border on Route 5. Instead of considering a variance and requiring the process of going through the Planning and Zoning Board, Supervisor Chris Koetzle asked town planners to come up with sweeping changes, resulting in a new zoning category, a “hybrid” highway/commercial district, allowing many more types of industrial uses than are allowed currently in this largely rural residential, recreational and professional residential area.
These proposed uses run counter to the town’s comprehensive master plan. The plan states that, in encouraging development in designated areas, it is intended that nearby properties and/or neighborhoods are not significantly impacted, either through environmental impacts, visual effects or a reduction of property values. The proposed changes fail to meet these criteria on all counts.
In allowing such uses as contractor offices, shops and yards; research and development facilities; auction businesses and inventory facilities, and warehousing and distribution facilities, the proposed changes are incompatible with the comprehensive plan, which states that industrial development should be concentrated in areas that have utilities (water and sewer) away from existing communities where it will have a negative effect.
There are already areas in the town that are zoned industrial and not yet fully developed, such as the industrial park, the Freeman’s Bridge/Sarnowski Drive area, parts of Maple Avenue, and a portion of Alplaus. Not only does the affected area lack utilities, much of it lies atop the aquifer recharge lands.
The comprehensive plan requires that proposed zoning amendments “be compatible with neighboring land uses.” The proposed “hybrid” zone fails here, since the properties along Amsterdam Road by the river have traditionally housed a rural residential community with some farming and places of occasional commercial activity. Allowing more industrial uses will certainly not preserve the nearby land values and will definitely change the character of the neighborhoods.
The master plan also emphasizes the need to maintain the rural character of those areas in western Glenville where public water has not been installed. The new zoning will open the corridor to contractor yards, warehousing and distribution inventory facilities and other undefined industrial uses.
Across the country, more enlightened government officials are working to preserve and improve the river valleys they are blessed to border. We should be preserving our scenic vistas, not blocking them with contracting equipment and warehouses.
As for the master plan’s requirement to preserve historic structures and buildings of distinctive character, opening up Route 5 to more industrialization will further threaten such structures, two of which have already been lost since I have lived here. Four houses of historical significance remain that will be affected: the Barhydt house between Washout and Stone Arabia roads; the Swart Tavern on the corner of Johnson Road; the Vedder Manor next to the Verfkill; and the house west of it, part of the Vedder complex with the family burial plot.
Sensible planning would also minimize traffic congestion, particularly along arterial highways such as Route 5. Numerous accidents have already occurred along this high-speed and dangerous roadway. With more slow-moving vehicles entering and exiting the highway, congestion and accidents will only increase.
The Glenville Town Board must accept its legal obligation to abide by the requirements of the comprehensive master plan and reject this proposed zoning change, which appears to benefit only one individual to the detriment of many others. The affected area has numerous limitations, including shallow lots, almost all backed by railways, flood plains or wetlands. The area from Gower Road to Stone Arabia Road is probably the most significant plot. It is now gravel storage and, under the proposed change, will certainly attract heavy industry. Care must be taken not to set in motion development that will be regretted years from now.
Concerned Glenville residents should attend the next Town Board meeting, when the zoning change will be voted upon. The town supervisor and some of the Town Board members seem anxious to change Amsterdam Road along the Mohawk River into more of an industrial business corridor. We already have several of these, but only one beautiful river valley.
Stanley Lee lives in Glenville. The Gazette encourages readers to submit material on local issues for the Sunday Opinion section.