New York’s SEQR Act requires all state and local government agencies to consider environmental impacts equally with social and economic factors. It is the first step in the project going forward. If the board determines the project will not have significant adverse environmental impacts, a determination of non-significance, a negative declaration, is declared and the project can move forward. If an action is determined to have potentially significant adverse environmental impacts, an “Environmental Impact Statement” is required and could alter the project or stop it all together.
“My client is not opposed to apartments, but the size and scope of this monster building is not acceptable,” said Andrew Brick, representing Farone. “There are numerous discrepancies and misinformation throughout their application.”
Citing town zoning code 129.49.26, Brick noted that in the hamlet zone where the project is proposed for, additional buildings “should relate in design and scale to adjacent buildings.”
“This one is unlike any other building in the area,” said Brick.
Another area he said was inconsistent was the required parking for the number of units and commercial space. Their project calls for 114 one, two and three bedroom luxury apartments and 170,000 square feet of retail space.
He noted that the project requires a minimum of 98 parking spaces and while the applicant says they are providing 100, the numbers are wrong.
“Once you look above the [restricted parking] residential area, there are only 87,” noted Brick.
He also pointed out that the placement of the Dumpster would require a zoning board variance; the economics of the price of the rental units not feasible with comparable units is the area; and that traffic from the project could be a serious issue in the future.
“This building is a monster and does not belong in that particular area,” said Brick.
Resident Bob Walsh said that the original Master Plan for the town was “a masterful job,” but that “this town for the last few years has done its best to get rid of it.”
He pointed out that while he does not oppose growth, he felt the town board needed to look toward the future and the impacts this type of development might have on Wilton. Pointing out that while Saratoga and Malta have similar buildings, he said Wilton does not have the same infrastructure they do.
“Malta and Saratoga Springs have four lanes where these buildings are located and all we have are two,” said Walsh. “Maybe push it back off the road a little so we don’t get bogged down.”
Continuing, he said the town systematically changed zoning so that the building could be constructed without variances or restrictions.
“The town has basically changed the zoning law to allow this type of building,” said Walsh.
The most passionate argument came from resident Connie Walsh who argued that the Town Board changed the number of units allowed per acre from eight to 15.
Board chairman Michael Dobis questioned exactly when the zoning changes occurred.
“In September,” said Towers, adding that technically, the changes were “just made” with the acceptance of the controversial zoning law changes made by the Town Board at the first of the year.
“I’m concerned now,” said Dobis, adding he had confronted the town board himself after being told there was no cap on units per acre. “I know I had the discussion with the town board way back when in the hamlet area there was no cap at all.”
“That’s what they’ve been trying to tell us too,” said Towers. “But, it is historically in print—it was eight units per acre.”
He noted that when he talked to the town board about the density he was under the impression there was no unit cap.
“Initially, the maximum density was eight and when the hamlet came through, there was no cap, so I went to the town board and said ‘you are creating a nightmare,’” said Dobis. “I told them they need to give a cap on the number, but I lost the argument—they said they wanted to give this building a lot of flexibility. They finally did put a cap of 15.”
Towers went on to point out that a public hearing on the zoning changes even mentions changing the unit cap.
“Even the public hearing reads that way—‘eliminate some additional requirements such as maximum density of eight units per acre . . . and eight units per floor,’” said Towers.
She continued that when the project first came to light almost a year ago, it needed several variances, but that the zoning board and the planning board kept kicking it around between themselves until the planning board finally gave positive recommendations.
“All these variances were needed by the zoning board and here are all these positive recommendations by this board,” said Towers. “Then the town went and repealed all these variances — how can something this big come without variances?”
After the public hearing ended, two hours into the meeting, Dobis said he was not prepared to make a SEQR determination at this point, noting that he wanted “to research the facts and see what is going on.”