COLONIE — The public benefit proposed for allowing a modification to an existing Planned Development District necessary to construct a 99-unit, three-story senior housing building where the Elks Lodge now stands off Watervliet Shaker Road is $176,700.
That number was determined by charging $1,860 per unit. Colonie Senior Services Center, the non-profit entity proposing the development, paid the same when it constructed King Theil on the adjoining site, $1,860 per unit. But, it paid for 100 units at the existing building and only built 96 so $7,440 was subtracted from the total.
The Planning Board recommended the Town Board, which will make the final determination and also decide how the money is best spent to benefit the town, accept the calculation.
The Planning Board also moved the overall plan forward by accepting the concept of the project. It will have to come back before the board at least once more for final site plan review before construction can start.
The Elks has agreed to sell the land to the CSSC and will likely merge with the lodge in Watervliet.
“All in all this seems to be a logical move for us,” said Exalted Leader Mark Loucks in a newsletter to members. “What a vote for the merger does is allow the great legacy of our lodge to continue. A vote against will basically end Colonie 2192 and send us into the dustbin of history.”
The results of the Sept. 21 vote were not known at press time.
Two residents raised concerns about the impact more development at the site will mean for their neighborhood.
“You guys take these projects as compartmentalized, right. You had King Theil I, then the Elks Pavilion now Theil II and the cell tower. I think, responsibility, you should look at the development as a whole. I know they are different tax IDs but the impact on the neighborhood is a one and done,” said Russell Sage, who lives on Abedar Lane. “It has been four or five years since we have been coming to these things for the same parcel of land no matter how you want to divide it up.”
The building was shifted closer to Elks Lane and away from Abedar lane homes since it was first proposed in July, said Dan Hershberg, the engineer who presented the project on behalf of Colonie Senior Services. Also, more trees, a berm and fencing are proposed between the properties to add to the buffer and the long stretch of garage initially proposed is being broken up to help the view shed.
Sage said the idea of having more trees sounds nice on paper and on looks nice on digital representations but is often different in the real world.
“It’s been my observation, through all the projects, it’s the best thing the town wants to hear,” he said. “We are going to plant trees and these digital representations are really nice but what is digital versus is what is actual, and what is actual as far as what the neighborhood gets at the end of all this are three completely different things.”
He also urged the town to hold developers responsible for keeping the landscaping looking nice after the first plantings.
“If they want to build these multi-million projects there should be something to keep these aesthetic buffers in shape,” he said. “It’s easy to present a computer generated diagram to show ‘leaf on’ but you are not going to show a tree with mites or something like that, you are going to show a tree from Victory Gardens. It is not an aesthetic buffer until the stamp is dry on the piece of paper. It’s an aesthetic buffer for the life of the project and for the neighborhood.”
Jim Quick, who lives on Silvan Avenue, asked if the pavilion built by the Elks and that is proposed for use by CSSC for activities by residents in its other two buildings, could be demolished and the main building move further away from Abedar.
The three-story, 127,000 square-foot building, if approved, will have 162 beds earmarked as “affordable housing” for seniors. It will also have a senior center, a wellness center and other common areas. There will be 105 parking spaces with room for 43 more which will be constructed should the need arise.
The design of the building will follow the existing King Theil building, which didn’t sit well with Planning Board member Craig Shamlian.
“The existing building is nice, but the new building has to be nicer,” he said. “I understand what one person things is attractive may not be what someone else does but it is just a big building — a big brown and tan building with not a lot of things breaking it up. If you look at some of the projects we recently approved there is a little more variation in the appeal of the building.”
King Theil opened its 96 units in 2017. The new building would have 75 two-bedroom apartments and 24 one-bedroom apartments. CSSC has two other facilities: The Beltrone Living Center on Winners Circle off Wolf Road with 250 units and Sheehy Manor on Cardondelet Drive with 50 units. Beltrone is geared towards “middle income” seniors and houses the CSSC administrative office and the town’s Senior Resources Department.
Rent prices at King Thiel are called “affordable” while at Sheehy Manor they are set for low income seniors. All 396 apartments in the CSSC system are rented, said Executive Director Diane Conroy-LaCivita, and there are hundreds on the waiting list and it could take years for a person to get a place.
Should the new facility get approved it will carry the same price range as that offered at King Thiel, which is no more than 20 percent of a person’s income. It is restricted to those 55 and older and residents cannot make more than about $60,000.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18 percent of Colonie’s nearly 84,000 people are over the age of 65. Two of the three buildings operated by CSSC offer apartments to those over 55 and while that demographic is not exact, it could represent as much as 25 percent of the town’s population.
The Planning Board, by a unanimous vote, moved the project forward.
“I appreciate the comments from the neighbors. I think you have made it a better project,” said Planning Board Chairman Peter Stuto. “I know change is not always easy, particularly when it’s in your back yard. I do think, however, the public good that will come out of this, affordable senior housing, will help a lot of families weighs heavily in how I will vote.”
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