The Bethlehem Soccer Club has received final approvals to move forward with construction of their indoor soccer complex on Wemple Road.
The project received a special use permit and site plan approval from the Bethlehem Planning Board on Tuesday, May 6. The club had been attempting to build an indoor soccer facility at the site since 2009.
“We’re excited for the project and looking forward to finally moving forward with it,” said Mark Sweeney, a parent speaking on behalf of the Bethlehem Soccer Club at the meeting.
Planning Director Rob Leslie said at this time there is no plan for installation of a new sign. If one is wanted at a later date, the club will need to get a permit from the building department. Changes also needed to be made to the plan from a previous presentation to allow for a larger road around the dome for emergency vehicle access.
The project received a height variance in July 2013. At 55 feet, the structure’s plans were 20 feet higher than what is allowed for a building in a Rural Zone and required a variance. A balloon test was held earlier that month at both the proposed site and alternate site on the property to get a visual of how high the building would be.
The soccer facility is being proposed through a new partnership between the soccer club and Afrim Sports in Latham. Afrim Nezaj, owner of Afrim Sports, will be paying for the project and taking over day-to-day operations, with the soccer club acting as a landlord.
The plans call for a 43,000 square-foot indoor, inflatable soccer dome to be built at 450 Wemple Road. Two regulation fields would be inside the facility. Also included would be a 3,000 square-foot lobby, which would hold offices, a concession stand and a small retail area for soccer equipment.
Nezaj had a similar project before the Zoning Board of Appeals in Colonie, but was denied a variance because the site at 969 Watervliet Shaker Road was next to Memory Gardens cemetery and didn’t meet all of the criteria.
The Bethlehem Soccer Club previously wanted to build a permanent structured facility, but could not raise the funds or had the volunteers to run the facility full-time. The new plans call for re-locating some of the outdoor fields on the property in order to place the indoor facility farther away from neighbors.
Neighbors had previously been against the plan, fearing the large dome structure would reduce property values and harm the tranquility of the area. Developers said they are now working more closely with neighbors to compromise on the facility’s location and aesthetics.
Traffic was one of the biggest issues.
To mitigate the issue, Brian Sipperly of L. Sipperly and Associates previously said more of a buffer would be placed in between games to help with traffic flow. The property’s parking lot will also be improved, with two smaller lots added and changes to the exit and entrances.
Neighbors also asked for a fence to be added to separate property lines. The developers agreed to place a six-foot chain link fence along the western portion of the property and extend it to the Miltowne Plaza property. In addition, safety netting would be installed to keep soccer balls from going onto neighbors’ land, but doors would be placed in the link fence to retrieve balls just in case.
Sweeney said they are working within the group to inform parents about being respectful of the neighbors and keeping an eye-out so they can exit their driveway. They have also changed their schedule so there is more times in between games. This will help with both traffic and parking.
“I think this is another good project for the town,” said Board member Kate Powers. “I think you took into account a lot of our suggestions, and the traffic issue has been resolved.”