Friday, 24 February 2017 16:51

Future Growth on the River

STILLWATER — A detailed report, which may affect future development plans on the Hudson River, is drifting closer to the dock.

Stillwater Mayor Rick Nelson explained that several miles of Route 4 have been under the planning microscope, starting north of the Mechanicville border and continuing to the hamlet of Bemis Heights.

“There’s not going to be any radical changes,” Nelson said. He noted how a concerted effort over the last year to modify zoning rules will allow local officials to create a “seamless” process to approve future development projects. “I don’t want people to think that we’re revamping the whole thing,” he said.

Town and village officials in Stillwater have scheduled a public hearing for the Draft Route 4 Corridor Plan on March 23. That event will be followed by the completion of a final draft and separate votes of approval in both municipalities.

“It’s a success story,” offered Stillwater Town Supervisor Edward Kinowski. He added praise for staff members at the Capital District Transportation Committee and Planning4Places, the official consultant hired for the zoning study with a $50,000 grant.

According to Lindsay Zepko, the town of Stillwater’s director of building and planning, the zoning changes translate to “lesser degrees of density” when traveling north and west of the village.

The plan itself contains three separate “transect zones” that specify such project dimensions as building heights, lot sizes and distance from Route 4—a popular state highway that mostly hugs the banks of the Hudson River from Troy to Hudson Falls.

In its “mixed use” section, the plan aims to “promote and retain the existing historic character and traditional village streetscape; enhance the village downtown identity by encouraging mixed-use development, street-level activity, and walkability to surrounding neighborhoods; and encourage additional public access to the Hudson River.”

Design guidelines in the plan for proposed projects consider lighting, rural preservation, protections for waterfront access and views, and the importance of the Saratoga National Historical Park within the town of Stillwater’s borders.

Michael Franchini, executive director of the Capital District Transportation Committee, explained that the Route 4 plan, if approved, will make it “easier for developers” to navigate zoning rules that are currently perceived as tedious and over-complicated. “This really didn’t focus on what the future development is,” Franchini said, but added “you want to have these plans in place before the development.”

Nelson, the Stillwater mayor, said he personally took interest in the zoning study because of its potential benefits for waterfront development and protection of the Saratoga National Historical Park area.

Nelson said he wants the “sight lines of the battlefield to stay clean.”

Boat traffic on the Hudson River is increasing, Nelson continued, which elevates the importance of future development along its banks. He placed an equal emphasis on attracting new residents to Stillwater—in the hopes of motivating entrepreneurs to take full advantage of the streamlined zoning process.

“Let’s bring the people here,” Nelson said.

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