COLONIE — A packed planning board meeting last week saw residents raising concerns about a proposed development on Donna Drive during the application for project concept acceptance.
Cillis Builders has a contract to purchase three sections of land (105 Donna Drive, 100 Donna Drive, and 352 Sand Creek Road) for the construction of 24 single-family residential lots. According to the narrative description of the project, 23 of the lots would be built on Donna Drive, and one of them would be built on Sand Creek.
Currently, the sought- after land is vacant and highly wooded. The land, according to the narrative, slopes from Donna Drive towards backyards of homes on Alfred Drive. There are town water and sewer lines at both ends of Donna Drive, which developers said they would extend to accommodate the new potential homes. The soil on the lot is sandy, so the developers, are proposing infiltration to deal with storm water drainage.
If built, the new residences are projected to use about 4,800 gallons of water per day, which, according to developers, will have minimal impact on the town’s water facilities. Solid waste is projected to be 8 tons per month once the homes are built, and there could be a “slight impact” on the Colonie Central School District due to the project, according to the narrative description.
Residents at the meeting questioned almost everything the developers had to say in the presentation, taking particular care to point out their concerns regarding traffic increases, sewer and storm water management, and the treatment of trees on the property.
Jerome Thomas, a Colonie resident who has lived on Alfred Drive since 1965, expressed concerns about the amount of traffic the new development would lead to. He told Spotlight News that the town has always had trouble developing this specific piece of property due to water drainage issues, and even suggested turning the site into a nature preserve, something a few residents seems to agree with at the meeting despite the dismissal of the idea from the planning board, who said it was not their job to be buying land.
“Why not? It’s something to think about. It is not a foolish idea,” Thomas said.
At the meeting, Joe Graso, the Town Designated Engineer on the project, said that there are things he would recommend the client study further while going forward with the concept and that there is additional information the planning board should be seeking. For example, Grasso pointed out that the site is about 70 percent wooded, and although Cillis determined that there are no endangered species on the property, there has not been any analysis done about the type of vegetation on the site, or the size of the trees. It has also not been determined yet what type of benefits the existing wooded areas provide, though Grasso said that the trees seem to be providing ample screening for privacy between residents right now. Upon conducting an analysis, the town Conservation Advisory Council determined that there are many mature trees on the site, though exact numbers and sizes were not immediately available.
At one point, after many residents besides Thomas had raised concerns about traffic, project developers said that there would be a projected 23 or 24 cars driving by every hour, an estimation that residents fiercely and vocally challenged.
Fending off continued questions, a representative from ABD Engineering, the project engineers, said all the required studies will come as the concept plan goes farther.
“We’re at the concept level, and I understand that there are a lot of questions that aren’t answered but that the purpose…getting people here so we can hear your concerns. I don’t live there. I don’t see the problems I walk out there on a sunny day and, there’s not rain, there’s not puddles, everything looks fine. But now I hear your problems, and I understand that,” said the engineer. He noted that while the developer would work to address as many resident concerns as possible, it is unlikely that all of the concerns will be addressed because the developer, at the end of the day, wants to build houses on the location.
Grasso pointed out that every development has some sort of impact. He said that while the board hears the complaints of residents, they can’t deny a project just to deny it.
“We also have to look at not just whether or not there’s going to be an impact, because, this board can’t just deny a project based on it having an impact. The board has to look at the significance of the impact that’s going to occur,” he said, mentioning that this number of homes usually is considered to create a significant impact. “It’s good that we understand that there’s concerns there, but keep in mind that just because a project is creating additional traffic does not give the planning board the justification to deny the project.”
The next planning board meeting will be held on Aug. 23 at 7 p.m. in the Colonie Public Works Department.