COLONIE — Representatives of the Stanford Heights Fire District presented a plan to build a new 20,000-square-foot fire house on Central Avenue.
The plan would combine five different parcels between Covington and Wilbur avenues, including where the existing fire house is located and a car dealership to the west. The old firehouse would be demolished once the new building is open.
Zoning of the 3.06-acre site is split between Single Family Residential and Neighborhood Commercial Office Residential, both of which allow a fire house as an acceptable use.
The 17,000-square-foot first floor of the new fire house would allow the larger apparatus drive thru — pull in on Covington and pull out to a call onto Wilbur and head to Central Avenue or Albany Street. Now, if the larger apparatus needs to park in one of the garages, traffic is held up on Central Avenue to allow it to turn around and back into one of the bays.
The 2,200-square-foot second floor would have a conference room and a full kitchen to accommodate other community based activities commonly hosted at volunteer fire houses across town. There would be 71 total parking spots with 17 set aside for first responders.
The new fire house, if approved, would be set back from Central Avenue and further into the existing neighborhood. That was an issue with some members of the Planning Board.
“There is nobody who appreciates the volunteers more than me, but this is rare for a fire house to go this far into a residential road so that does concern me,” said Planning Board member Steve Heider. “Looking at it from the Covington Avenue, it is one big building to look at it on a daily basis.”
The presentation by Roger Keating of Chazen Companies on behalf of the Fire District, was a sketch plan review and the first step in the planning process. A waiver would be necessary to exceed a 25-foot setback from Central Avenue but the location of the building is difficult to change since the existing fire house is located right along Central and needs to stay in operation during construction. Allowing parking along the front of the building is also requested to accommodate first responders.
The Fire District is a taxing district and it would need the approval of property owners within that district to borrow money for the project. There are plans to hold public hearings and other presentations for the entire district especially the residents living along Covington Avenue.
“Encroachment on the residential areas is the biggest issue and any mitigation is appreciated and it will be interesting to see what the neighbors have to say so anything you can do for them is appreciated,” said Planning Board Chairman Peter Stuto.
Kevin Hullett, chair of the Stanford Heights Board of Fire Commissioners, said the public hearings and presentations should take place early next month. He said it was too soon to tell how much the project would cost or how much the district would need to borrow.
The Stanford Heights Fire District was established in 1920. It covers seven miles of Colonie and Niskayuna with about 42 active volunteers and 43 social members.