COLONIE — Following a second public hearing, or a continuation of the first, the Planning Board unanimously gave a positive recommendation to changing the zoning at 1222 Troy Schenectady Road, the former Martin Harding and Mazzotti building, from Single Family Residential to Commercial Office Residential.
It is up to the Town Board to make the final determination on whether or not to change the zoning on the already busy intersection of Route 7 and Vly Road on the south side and Rosendale Road on the north side. It is not clear when the Town Board will address the issue.
“Some will say it is not a mistake but it looks like a mistake to me because of the property that is surrounding it and we have seen a number of mistakes of that rezoning in 2007,” said Planning Board Chairman Peter Stuto. “It is really only fair to the owner of a parcel on route 7 that has been historically used for those purposes, and the two residential parcels are not on the table tonight.”
He said the danger of allowing it to remain an office building while being zoned SFR, or allowing a non-conforming use, is that it handcuffs the owner and any future owner on what can and cannot be done with the property.
“To me the building looks aged now,” he said. “We are in danger of the building deteriorating and they can’t do anything with it without a variance as a pre-existing non-conforming use. If you are going to grandfather in a parcel you can’t do anything with the footprint.”
The initial request included 418 and 418a Vly Road but the law firm, the entity making the request, withdrew the two properties from consideration. On one is a residential home the law firm was using as an ancillary office and the second lot is vacant.
During the meeting, Supervisor Paula Mahan said she and a staffer searched old records to see if they could uncover why just that parcel, from the Niskayuna border to the Latham Circle is zoned SFR while the rest of the Route 7 corridor is COR.
“We could find no rationale for going from 1968 to present having commercial activity there why that one lot would be pulled out and changed to SFR when the other three corners are commercial,” she said. “When you look on the map, the zoning map, the one parcel that faces Troy Schenectady Road that is SFR is Martin Harding and Mazzotti. Why it was taken out of the mix is a mystery.”
Previously, a representative from Martin, Harding and Mazzotti said the firm was unaware of the zoning change and “were living their own lives and doing their own thing and not looking at zoning maps.”
Mahan said the records show that since 1968 the building has always housed a commercial entity, from the Dall’s clothing store to a real estate business and an insurance business. There might have been another retail store at the location prior to the law firm setting up shop in 1986.
It was always zoned commercial, although under a different name, but it was inexplicitly changed to SFR in 2007, before Mahan took office, during a town-wide reworking of the zoning and land use laws. It went unnoticed until the law firm moved to Albany and attempted to market the land and/or the building.
A number of home owners along Vly Road and surrounding areas are concerned with traffic at the intersection and by changing the zoning to COR could open up the site to uses such as a hotel, a gas station, a retail store or some other type of business that would generate more traffic than the office building. That is why some would prefer it to remain as a non-conforming use office building.
Any proposed project would have to come before the Planning Board for approval.
There was talk of a new office building there with the two lots on Vly Road used for parking but it has not been formally introduced.
“It’s functioned fine in its current iteration for years maybe decades,” said Tracy Eagan, who lives on Vly Road. “Because office space is not being rented now, it is a reason for trying to rezone for a commercial or a retail space and that is would increase traffic at the intersection.”
She said she would prefer the town hold off on any re-zoning of the site until it can use information generated from the updates comprehensive plan made in 2019 is used to update zoning and land use laws across the board.
Others were concerned about 418 and 418 a being considered for a rezone at a future date and other asked for a traffic study at the intersection. Previously, Sean Maguire acknowledged the intersection is “sensitive” but a traffic study without knowing the use of the building or land would be fruitless.
Bonnie McCullough, a representative from the Vly Pointe Condominium Owners Association, said she and the condo owners she represents are concerned about 418 and 418a becoming a parking lot or anything but residential because they use the driveway behind the law firm to access Vly Road rather than trying to navigate onto Route 7. The condos are located in Niskayuna to the west of the law firm building.
She also said there are another eight units planned for that complex.
The zoning of this partial was commercial prior to 2007. With the re-zoning that occurred throughout the town it was zoned SFR. It’s history is that it was used as commercial in many iterations over a number of years,” said Mary Beth Slevin, who is representing Martin Harding and Mazzotti. “The comprehensive plan adopted in 2005 and updated in 2019 both confirm the rezoning is consistent with a comp plan.”
The Planning Board voted unanimously to forward a recommendation to the Town Board to change the zoning with member Craig Shamlian abstaining.