COLONIE — The Planning Board gave a cool reception to the plan presented by a New Jersey developer to build a four-story, 122-room hotel and 5,700-square-foot restaurant on Troy Schenectady Road near the Exit 6 ramp on the west side of the Northway.
The hotel and restaurant are permitted use in their respective zoning classifications, but the fact there is currently not a way for the public to enter the site coming from the east because of a median separating the traffic on Route 7 was a sticking point.
“It would be different if there was a roundabout up the road but there is not,” said Steve Heider, who was presiding over his first meeting as chair.
For patrons to enter the site from the Northway, a route where presumably a solid percentage of people will come from who want a hotel room, they will need to drive past the hotel and take a left on Wade Road, turn around and come back east on Troy-Schenectady Road. Or go down Forts Ferry Road, take a left on Wade Road and another left on Troy Schenectady Road.
Ray Darling, an engineer with Bergmann Engineering, who presented the plan on behalf of the developer, Reddy Patlola, of Vanara Properties, an LLC based in Plainsboro Township, said they are aware of the ingress issue. His client, he said, is exploring the purchase of land on Rensselaer Avenue to give westbound traffic an easier access. Signage, he said, instructing customers how to get in is another option.
There are also federal wetlands on the site, said Town Designated Engineer Joe Grasso, but the fact they are federally designated wetlands rather than state does make it easier for the developer. Wetlands designated such by the state Department of Environmental Conservation require a 100-foot buffer and current site plan encroaches on that buffer, he said. The federal wetlands do not require the same buffer but the plan does call for an encroachment.
“We have concerns with the amount of wetlands impacts. The secondary access goes across wetlands and the road and the access drive that snakes around the back of the hotel impacts the wetlands,” Grasso said. “The crossing of the wetlands may be minimal but What we are left with is a small patch of wetlands which will probably be impacted by the construction and grading going on around it. All these small encroachments will change the wetland hydrology and translate into a greater environmental impact.”
Grasso said there is also concerns with parking and how the site is laid out. The parking lot is along one side of the hotel and dead ends at the back end of the site. That could be a problem, he said, if the parking lot is full and an unknowing customer drives all the way to the back and then has to back out.
“We recommend shifting the building one way or another and have a double bay on one side and have the ability to loop around,” he said.
The site is 10.7 acres of wooded land between Rensselaer Avenue and Wade Road. It would be across Rensselaer Avenue from a Microtel Hotel and across Route 7 from a Super 8 and another hotel is within a quarter mile near the Target. The viability of another hotel in that section of town was brought up.
“There are already three places you can go to and you don’t have to look around,” said Planning Board member Frederick Ashworth. “I would think it would have to be a destination hotel. The restaurant, that is a fair size restaurant, and with a hotel, 90 percent of that traffic is going to come from the east and two-thirds of the restaurant traffic is coming from the east.”
The hotel would be 48,669-square-foot and have 130 parking spots. It is proposed for the Airport Business Area and the 5,700-square-foot restaurant, which would front Troy-Schenectady Road, is on land zoned Commercial Office Residential. The hotel would have two to three employees per shift and the restaurant would employ between 15 and 20 and be open from about 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
The project would be constructed in two phases with the hotel being built first, Darling said.
“We don’t pick winners and losers,” said Planning Board member Greg Shamlian. “If someone thinks they can do a restaurant and hotel that is your prerogative, if it is permitted. But I would strongly encourage to look at that with the traffic and the ingress and egress challenges it is going to be challenging to be successful there.”
Darling said part of the sketch plan review is to get information from the town and judge the pros and cons.
“The owner needs to take everything into context and see what he wants to do,” he said.
The project will need to come back before the board at least twice more for concept acceptance and final site plan approval before construction can begin.
That section of Troy-Schenectady Road has seen a considerable amount of interest. Latham Ford is proposing a new dealership near the intersection of Wade Road and on the east side of the Northway, a Chil-fil-A is proposed for where the Brick House restaurant is located and a gas station/convenience store is proposed for where Carpet One is located.