LOUDONVILLE – Nobel Hall is ready for construction, despite more restrictions.
The Town of Colonie Planning Board approved the final site plan of the Nobel Hall Science Center. Siena College now has the clearance to begin construction of the 47,700-square-foot addition to the Morrell Science Center, but not without changes to the original plan.
During the Tuesday, May 30, public meeting, nine Fiddlers Lane residents and a resident from Spring Street Road voiced their concerns about the effects caused by construction vehicles driving on Fiddlers Lane.
Topics of concern included the pollution caused by diesel vehicles, the need of a weight restriction for Fiddlers Lane,the shaking of neighbors’ homes felt by the moving force of 18-wheeler trucks, and the safety of pedestrians walking on the road.
Upon hearing their concerns, as well as remarks given by Vice President and Chief of Siena Jason Rich and Tobin and Dempf firm member Mike Costello, the board overturned the decision to use Fiddlers Lane for construction access into Siena.
To satisfy the neighbors’ needs, Planning and Economic Development head Sean Maguire advised Siena and Gilbane to post signage restricting construction vehicles access onto Fiddlers Lane. Construction vehicles must now access Siena at the campus’ main entrance on Route 9 or use Spring Street Road during the construction, which Heider estimated will take a year and a half.
“We really need the approval for the project, understanding whatever decision is made about Fiddlers Lane,” Mark A. Frost, Siena Assistant Vice President of Facilities Management said. “If we can’t use Fiddlers Lane, the project still needs to be able to move forward.”
This month, Siena will obtain a building permit and Gilbane has 15 sub contractors that are lined up to do the project Frost said.
Rich reassured residents and the board that Siena remains invested and part of the project is appointing a “community liaison.” If there are any construction vehicles that violate the rule of driving on Fiddlers, the college will address the issue, Rich said.
“I want our neighbors to know that we hear you, care for you, and are committed to being a good neighbor,” Rich said. “We’re emphatic to that and we’re committed to preserving that and helping our campus grow.”
A sigh of relief
Fiddlers Lane residents Janet LaBella and Mark Richardson expressed their thoughts on the construction vehicles. “We’re pleased with the decision not to allow Siena’s construction traffic on Fiddlers Lane,” they said.
“I was very happy, as were my neighbors, that Siena was not allowed to have 18 Wheelers on tiny Fiddlers Lane for the next year and a half. It would have impacted our lives here terribly.” resident Susan Sommers said. Sommers added she would like a permanent weight restriction on Fiddlers and a slower speed limit as the vehicles fly down the road, leaving pedestrians nowhere to go.
The Board’s reflections, decisions and regrets
Prior to discussion, Maguire noted that Siena had missed a requirement to provide public notice for the project. Siena was asked by the board to return to make a public notification for the major site plan review of Nobel Hall Science Center, zoned single, business, residential.
Since prior approvals of the hall were made by the board without public notice, Heider asked for a motion to rescind the earlier SEQR determination and final site plan approval that was granted on March 21,allowing the public to give insight into the project for the first time. The motion was approved by the board.
Upon hearing the residents’ concerns with Fiddlers Lane and others representing Siena, the board had a change of heart. Board Member Kevin Bronner Jr. was disappointed that the neighbors weren’t spoken to well ahead of time.
“We need(ed) to start this (conversation with the residents) earlier. Now you’re at a place where the whole neighborhood is out in the community, and we haven’t talked to them.” Bronner said. “When you’re doing a project, I think that it’s very important to do it from the very beginning.”
Heider was strongly opposed to using Fiddlers in previous meetings and remains opposed to the road use now. Previously, Heider and the board were told that the construction traffic would affect no more than three homes and found out later it would affect more.
“We voted last time based on not having any public input and now we have public input.” Heider said. “As far as the traffic goes, I wasn’t pleased with what was voted on.”
Town Engineer Joe Grasso said that it was up to the board to weigh in on all of the different factors in terms of convenience, impact on the neighborhood, and impact on the campus. Grasso noted that all access points to Siena can accommodate the construction vehicles.
All members agreed on the use of Route 9 and or Spring Street Road, if needed, for construction access and after consideration made a motion to restrict Fiddlers Lane to construction vehicles, the Board approved the final site plan of Nobel Hall.