Monday, August 27, 2007

Village Must Take a More Active Role in Mineral Springs Road Development

There’s no denying it, the pressure to build along the Mineral Springs Road corridor, especially where it runs roughly parallel with the Village, is intensifying! There are already two major residential projects in the early planning stages. Last spring, the Village annexed the property for these proposed developments so that the developers would have access to Village water and sewer services.

The largest of the two projects, proposed by Maximum Equities, is a residential development which will include 130-200 units, according to village planning board member Niles Voyer-McGiver. However, according to Voyer-McGiver, the developer has yet to specify whether those units will be in the form of an apartment complex, row houses, condos or townhouses.

While Village planning board members and village officials are at odds over how best to handle the situation, the stakes for the Village could scarcely be higher. At 130 or even 200 housing units, this project will be largest in the Village’s history. Moreover, it will permanently shape the landscape that serves as the Village’s southern gateway. This being the first major development along Mineral Springs Road it will also set the tone for future development, which make no mistake, will be coming.

Village trustee Mark Galasso is foolish to insist that the Village should be “begging on a bended knee” for such developments. Yet Larry Weintraub’s (of the Department of State)
suggestion of a 6-12 month building moratorium may be excessive.

Instead, the proper course is for the Village to steer these projects in a direction that is beneficial for all involved, but mostly for the future of the Village. According to the Times-Journal, Village planners have discussed the possibility of establishing design standards. Well..what’s to discuss? Of course there should be design standards for this project. Remember, not only will this development form the southern gateway into the Village, but it will be entirely visible from I-88.

Instead of just kneeling down to every developers’ proposal, the Village of Cobleskill needs to become aware of the opportunities that exist for the development of this project. Instead of ending up with another cluster of suburban sprawl like that of the East End, Village officials must insist on a more sustainable, pedestrian-friendly design, one that is integrated with the Village’s Downtown.

First off, Village officials should take the necessary measures to create a land use zone that allows for higher densities and that prescribes a neo-traditional or “new urbanist” style of development. Apartment complexes and condos should be out of the question. Townhouses or row-houses with minimal setbacks along a grid-iron street pattern, and with plenty of trees and maybe even a small park would be best. The Village should also make it a priority to connect this development to Downtown via a pedestrian or bike trail. The Village’s main objective should be to demonstrate that this project is linked up and integrated (functionally, architecturally and aesthetically) with the Village, and not the just the first of many more poorly planned residential and commercial projects to sprawl out along Mineral Springs Road. There are lot’s of opportunities here, let’s not let them slip by.

It is especially important for the Village to take a pro-active role here, because of the fact that the developer of the project seems uncertain as to what exactly to build. As a community, let’s get up off our knees and tell the developers that we want a Cobleskill with a sustainable future and NOT more sprawl.

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