COLONIE — Town residents expressed concern last week at the planning board meeting over a potential dental office development project that would, if approved by the town, be built on land directly next to a farm.
The building, which would be located at 1240 Loudon Road, would serve as a dental office for David Mitola, who is working with Advanced Engineering and Surveying, PLLC on the project. The area of the total property, according to the submitted project narrative, is one acre and is zoned as Office Residential by the town. The office would take up about 4,100 square feet, according to the planning board, and the entire area is about 55 percent green space. The building would occupy 10 percent, and a potential paved area would take up 35 percent of the space.
Nick Costa, the engineer who spoke on behalf of the project, noted that the land on which the building would be placed is adjacent to Oreshan Farm. Costa said that the building will have stone finishing, and theoretically will look similar to the homes in the area. Based on the way the site was designed, there will be parking in front of the building, which will face Route 9, with some employee parking as well. Costa noted that the New York state Department of Transportation has requested that the drive of the site be lined up with the already existing traffic control system on that road. The parcel of land is bound by the Mohawk-Hudson Bike Path on the southern side. The farm borders the land on the north and west sides.
Joe Grasso, the town designated engineer on the project, noted that since the land falls within a Conservation Development Overlay District, the purpose of which is to conserve resources and reduce development in that zone in order to protect any resources that are within a certain project site area, further analysis of the land is required from the applicants.
“This analysis is important to the project moving forward and is needed to determine the conservation value of any resources that should be protected,” he said.
Grasso’s office has made a recommendation that 40 percent of the land be restricted from development, and that conservation could best come from a 60-by-210-foot strip of land along south side of site, a 159-by-18-foot strip along the back of the property, and a 10-by-196-foot strip along the left side. All of those strips, he said, would amount to the necessary 40 percent of land that needs to be preserved on the site.
Tom Gallagher, a representative from Cornell Cooperative Extension, talked about some of the issues with dust, noise and other nuisances that usually come with building close to farms. Gallagher expressed concern that, since the pesticides used on farms by law must be a kept at a certain distance from other buildings, Oreshan Farm could lose up to 75 feet of its farming property. He said despite the fact that farms are protected from nuisance lawsuits by agriculture laws, that might not stop anyone from calling entities such as the Department of Environmental Conservation with complaints.
“What bothers me about what I’m hearing tonight is, it’s almost like the farm is already gone,” Gallagher said. “I think we really need to work hard to keep that farm a farm as long as we can.”
Peter Stuto, chairman of the planning board, said that the comments from the farmers and Gallagher were well taken, but was at a loss as to what else could go on the property that would be better, mentioning that building homes on the plot would be worse.
“I appreciate the comments on the farming and from the Cornell Cooperative Extension, but we asked the question, what would be an appropriate use, and it’s a little bit of an unsolvable riddle and a difficult one,” he said. “I don’t think we can say ‘nothing can go there.’”
Paula Patrician, who currently owns the land, received it from her father as a wedding gift from her parents. At the meeting, she said that she doesn’t use the land and has been paying taxes on it for the past 30 years, and that she decided to sell it after her father’s death last year. Patrician said that she has had multiple offers to buy the land over the years and turned all of them down, aside from the dental office.
“What else can I sell the property for? I’m paying taxes, $1,500, $1,600 a year on something I do not use, and I thought it was nice that this gentleman offered to buy it,” Patrician said. According to her, she had heard that her brother, one of the owners of Oreshan Farm, was willing to buy the land. However, Patrician said since she and her brother have not spoken in 20 years and she didn’t know for sure whether or not he wanted the land, she went ahead with Mitola’s offer.
“This gentleman has already put a lot of money into it, and I thought that it would be a perfect fit for my brother’s neighborhood. A quiet little dental office,” she said, pointing out that a dental office would not have lights on all night as another commercial property might. She also argued that the farming land that would be lost if the building were to be approved would not be significant.
Andrea Oreshan, one of the farm owners, argued at the meeting that the possible loss of the farm land would badly affect their business in the long run. Oreshan said that they use a crop spray that must be sprayed 500 feet away from any buildings, which would force them to move their farming back even farther. She said they also use some bug-deterring chemicals that have a rotten egg smell, which she is afraid could bother anyone in the dental office. However, Patrician later insisted that the smells from the farm do not travel.
“The only smell I ever smelled was on my father’s clothes when we did the laundry,” she said.
“We want to grow old with the farm. That’s in our blood. I’m a fourth generation farmer and that’s what I know, and it’s not something that you can really give up. It’s not like you can change careers, it’s just part of who I am,” Oreshan said. “We feel like we’re being forced out, and we’re not being heard.”
The board tabled the proposal, with the expectation that the applicants will return with further analysis of the land.