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There are landowners with rights to do certain things on their land. It is theirs, after all.
There are developers looking to make money by building things on that land. It is a capitalistic society and they, understandably, are more concerned with profit margins than traffic studies.
There are, undoubtedly, residents living in proximity to the land developers are eyeballing and their concerns and desires often times don’t line up with those of their neighbors. They too have rights and expectations.
There are too other residents concerned with the town’s character as a whole, and the more macro issues of what development today means for the town’s future and how it is perceived by people looking to live and raise a family as well as by future developers.
And charged with juggling and understanding all those conflicts of interest are seven members of the Planning Board.
To do that in as fair and equitable a manner as possible, members school themselves on traffic matters, storm water management, architectural design and implementation, buffering, landscaping, lighting and sewer and water and other infrastructure details not many even pay attention to.
That’s in addition to land use laws and comprehensive plans and zoning laws and environmental studies and a host of other complex legal, ethical and engineering issues.
The board meets twice a month, and while the meetings can last three or more hours, it’s the time spent outside the meetings where the time must add up — the visits to different sites and/or studying and digesting site plans, proposals and legal documents.
Of course, there are engineers and lawyers to help them out. But in the end, the majority of the seven members are regular citizens trying to give something back to their community. One member is a school teacher, and one is a former police chief, for example.
Not all projects are difficult, but there are few large parcels of land left in Colonie that are easy. They are what is known as “transitional,” or land that lays between land with different zoning regulations like The Summit project on Forts Ferry Road, where on one side is quiet residential neighborhoods and the other are busy commercial developments.
The same can be said for the large mixed use development project just east of Wolf Road that appears on this week’s front cover; and the Stewart’s project on Fuller Road that appears on page five; and the project along Vly Road that appears on page six.
To the Planning Board’s credit, they tabled the Vly Road project while dropping strong hints that it’s just too big for the available land. They dropped the same strong hints about the project between Rustyville Road and Wolf Road.
Members can’t dictate to developers what to build or how to build it, but they can make their preferences and concerns known.
Colonie is changing, and has been for at least the last two decades. Where there was once family farms growing food to feed cities like Albany and Schenectady, are now malls and office buildings and hotels and apartment complexes and upscale housing developments and blacktop and traffic – a lot of traffic.
While, most of the vehicles are not driven by town residents — they are people who work in town and people who are passing through to get from their jobs in the cities to their suburban homes in Clifton Park and points north — traffic still falls under the Planning Board purview.
The interests are way too diverse, and those interested are way too passionate, to have everyone sitting at the table walk away happy, but the Colonie Planning Board has done and continues to do an admirable job of juggling all that … and they do it for about $4,000 a year.
It is truly a thankless job.