COLONIE — The majority of neighbors who spoke at a public hearing were not opposed to the proposed expansion of the Keller Honda on Troy-Schenectady Road but they would like the dealership to be a good neighbor.
Lighting, noise, traffic from test drives through their neighborhood and storm water runoff were the main concerns voiced during a Planning Board meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 25.
David Haller: Northern drive
“Everyone on our street drives a Keeler car and everyone is happy with Keeler and we are happy Keeler is expanding. Good for them,” said David Haller, who lives on Northview Drive, a neighborhood off River Road behind Keeler. “But we want them to be a good neighbor. Help us out with the lighting, and maybe a berm. The test drives, they have to stop. We have a dead end street, we don’t need a Keeler driver to stop on our street to change drivers. I think they should pick a different route. That would be great.”
Haller was one of a group of residents who retained the law firm of Jones Hacker and Murphy to represent its interests. A detailed, 24-page letter was submitted to the Planning Board last year by attorney Benjamin Neidl.
One of the main points of contention outlined in the letter was a proposed road leading from the back of the Keeler site to River Road but that idea has since been abandoned. A long talked about bike back connecting Troy-Schenectady Road to the path along the Mohawk was also part of the original plan but is not included in the current iteration.
Many of the neighbors spoke against the path and the inevitable invasion of privacy by having the public walking and/or riding along their back yards.
“The neighbors are concerned about the bike path, with people walking around their back yards. People just put in pools, and now we are going to have people walking by looking at their pools what if there is a 16- 17-year-old daughter in the backyard?” said Greg Shepherd, who lives on Northview Drive. “We like to see businesses succeed. I bought two cars from Keeler. They treat people right but we can’t forget about the neighborhoods. The Neighbors have concerns, and the business has concerns about staying competitive and there is a way to co-exist. We have people who don’t even live in the area saying what they want instead of what the neighbors want and what Keeler wants and that is a problem.”
Glen Sandberg, vice president of the Albany Bicycle Coalition said the only way to get to the bike path from Troy-Schenectady Road is to go down the steep hill at Rosendale Road which he doesn’t recommend even for “expert bicyclists.”
The board, prior to unanimously accepting the concept of the project, said Keeler should address the lighting, not just the lights being installed at the new buildings but also the older lights because they are causing the problems now.
As for test drives, Planning Board Chair Steven Heider, who was presiding over his first meeting in that capacity, said there are enough lights to make sure there are no left hands turns against traffic.
Earlier in the discussion, Patrick Mitchell, a representative from Keeler, said one reason the test drive route ends up on River Road is because it involves all right hands turns leaving and entering the Keeler parking lot. Another issue, he said, is dealer representatives did not accompany potential customers on test drives during COVID. He said routes would be re-examined going forward.
The proposal, as presented by Nick Costa of Advance Engineering and Surveying, calls for two new buildings on the 58.9-acre site that sells a number of different cars including Honda, BMW, MINI and Mercedes Benz.
A new, 46,000-square-foot building would be constructed on the former site of Hewitt’s, which has been demolished and currently used by the dealership to store inventory.
A second 47,000-square-foot building with about half housing a new collision center and half home to a new Maserati and Alfa Romero dealership.
The land is zoned Commercial Office Residential and it is within the Airport GEIS and the mitigation fee associated with the project has not yet been calculated.
The current home to the Honda dealership is where the company will sell used vehicles.
According to the narrative, since there is already a collision center and Honda dealership onsite, those aspects of the project will not increase traffic. The new Maserati building will generate an estimated 24 new trips during the peak travel morning and afternoon travel times.
In addition to lighting and test drive concerns, members of the board said they wanted attractive landscaping, asked Keeler to consider taking advantage of the flat parking lots and flat roofs for solar panels and questioned the need for seven curb cuts onto Troy-Schenectady Road along the length of the property.
Pending approval from the Planning Board — it will need to come back at least one more time for final site plan approval — construction could start on the collision center by the end of the year.