Residents of Ballston filled the community room of the Ballston Government Center on Tuesday night, waiting to hear the town council’s vote on a new zoning ordinance.
Some held literature about Supervisor Ray Callanan’s election campaign, and one woman carried in a large sign. While it was clear that many were hoping the new zoning ordinance would not go through, there were some, like resident and business owner Linda Lambert, that were hoping it would.
The possibility of having Wal-Mart in the area will bring a supermarket, she said. `That will provide part-time jobs for teens and seniors and keep people who travel to Wilton (to shop) in the area.`
When 6:30 p.m. hit, chatter in the hall died down and Callanan opened the meeting, the culmination of 16 months of work. The board voted on the comprehensive plan, the zoning ordinance and subdivision regulations. Councilwoman Mary Beth Hynes was the only council member to speak out and vote against each and all three passed.
`You get persuasion and a vote,` said Hynes. `I tried to use both.`
Some residents shook their heads as they watched council member after council member vote in favor of a zoning ordinance that would allow commercial building over 90,000 square feet.
In order for a building over 90,000 square feet to be built, the company must first file for Planned Unit Development. Once the PUD is complete, the planning board can approve it, after which it will go to a vote at the town board meetings.
After the meeting was adjourned, residents gathered in small groups, talking about the meeting.
`I was expecting the outcome,` said Hynes. `I’ve been working behind the scenes to try to change the outcome, but ultimately I wasn’t surprised.`
J-D Wood, a resident of Ballston, said he also expected the outcome and commended Hynes for standing up for her opinion, but added, `Coming out with your opposition in the 11th hour is useless.`
Lambert said she was happy to see that the board was in favor of changing the zoning regulations. She also said that many of the people opposed to the change don’t know everything surrounding the issue.
`People who only show up for the meetings don’t understand the rationale,` she said. `They come without knowing the full facts.`
Many in the town were disappointed with the town board, saying they didn’t fairly represent the town’s opinions on development.
`They said they were basing the changes on their own experience,` said Wood. `What about what the public wants? They’re basically saying that [their] five opinions supercede what the town wants.`
But Callanan said that the town was what the council was thinking of all along.
`We’ve tried to be objective and do what’s best for the town of Ballston,` said Callanan. `This is a lot more than big-box development.`
Callanan said that he’s glad the new comprehensive plan is in place, adding, `it’s a document that needs fine tuning as we go along. I’m glad the first part of the process is over.`
Hynes said that the planning board and town board would have to be firm with what the town wants for development in the town, making sure they get what’s best for Ballston.
`Once development comes in, it’s there. It’s not unreasonable to want them (builders) to comply with certain standards,` said Hynes.“