The Colonie Town Board wants to hear from the public about the possibility of a new local law that would make it more difficult to renovate or build any hotels or motels along Central Avenue.
A public hearing has been set for Thursday, July 11, at Colonie Town Hall about regulating the expansion of hotels and motels on the busy Route 5 corridor. On the less than seven-mile strip, Town Attorney Mike Magguilli said, there are 22 hotels and motels, but developers continue to apply to either build more or expand current buildings. Magguilli said the law would force developers to have a special use permit to expand or build, and it would be a rigorous and burdensome process.
This isn’t the first time Colonie has tried to overhaul the Central Avenue strip. In 2008, the town sought to address the issue of registered sex offenders flocking to the area’s many hotels and motels. The sex offenders living in these establishments, Magguilli said, cost the county a lot of money.
In 2009, the Town Board approved a law requiring hotel and motel owners who house sex offenders to pay an annual licensing fee. The law also created a points system to limit the number of sex offenders that could live at each establishment. Each sex offender was given a number of points based on the level of his or her offenses. A Level 1 sex offender carried one point; Level 2, two points; and Level 3, three points. Each establishment participating has a limited amount of points allowed.
Creating this new law attracted national attention, Magguilli said, and helped the town to solve the sex offender problem.
“But there’s still problems with these motels,” Magguilli said. “Some of the clientele can be very rowdy, and very burdensome on the police department and EMS.”
Magguilli said oftentimes patrons of motels and hotels are noisy and throw “lavish parties.” He added a study of the Route 5 corridor show that there is no need for hotel or motel development.
“That area can be better used and redeveloped more in character with the area for commercial/retail businesses,” Magguilli said.
The town put up a moratorium three years ago that prohibited any development or renovations of motels and hotels along the strip. Magguilli said several builders have approached the town Building Department seeking to build new establishments or rehabilitate older ones, but were turned down due to the moratorium. Now, the town is extending the moratorium until late August in order to consider the local law.
If the new local law is approved, a motel or hotel owner who wants to renovate or expand would have to go through a “costly and burdensome procedure.” Owners would have to apply for a special use permit and first go before the Building Department and then the Planning Board. Each applicant would have to go before the Planning Board for a public hearing to show a “special need” for a new or enlarged hotel or motel. The Planning Board would first and foremost see if the expansion or development would affect the single-family residential areas near the avenue.
“(We want to) minimize the impact of hotels on residential neighborhoods as far as lighting goes, noise,” Magguilli said. “People that live around there are naturally concerned.”
In addition, the board would consider market demand and economic necessity for any new projects. Magguilli said builders would also need to consider the industrious impact, including walkways, intersections and lights.
“If the applicant fails to show any of these things to the Planning Board’s satisfaction, the application will be denied,” Magguilli said.
Owners would not need a special use permit for ordinary repairs, including fixing side paneling or windows. Yet if they want to do something like an expansion that would increase their occupancy, they would need a special use permit.
Councilman Daniel Hornick said the law would be a good move due to the implementation of the town’s new notification law, which expands neighbor notification requirements for developers. If there were to be new hotel or motel development, they would have the extra burden of having to notify more single-family residential areas now.
“This also pushes economic development toward retail, which will be better for the Central Avenue corridor. It’s a good step,” Hornick said.
Magguilli said he believes the new law would work, especially after the positive response from the sex offender occupancy law.
“We’ve had municipalities from around the country call us up and ask if they could copy it. We were contacted by ‘Good Morning America,’ they wanted to do a segment on it. The point system is the first one like that in the country,” Magguilli said.
As for hotel and motel owners, Magguilli said the response may not be as positive.
“I’m sure they’re not going to like it,” he said.