Monday, March 10, 2008

Donats Brow Development Needs Careful Site Planning

The Village of Cobleskill is in possession of a very critical piece of infrastructure (water and sewer lines) and a lot of developers want to tap into it. In my view, this gives the Village an incredible amount of bargaining power. But they don’t seem to be using it.

The Donats Brow development, consisting of a proposed 14 apartment buildings on Mineral Springs Road (across from the fmr. Guilford Mills plant) will be the largest residential project in the Village’s history. But the only reason the project is going to go ahead is because the Village and Town are (most likely) going to agree to the Village’s annexation of the land in question. The annexation means that the properties will be taxed by the Village AND that the developer gets water and sewer for the projects.

Now, I’m glad that the Village has insisted upon annexation in order to extend water and sewer lines to the development. However, the developer in this case, seems to be getting more than the Village out of the deal.

My biggest concerns have to do with the planning and zoning of this development. Have village officials taken any steps to ensure that this development is integrated with the rest of the Village? Has there been any concern for the long-term potential for development in that area?

There are two reasons to worry about this: first, what will be the negative unintended consequences of rapid development in this part of the community? Secondly, what opportunities are we missing out on by not planning this better?

To put this in perspective, let’s consider that this project calls for roughly 14 apartment buildings! This is essentially going to be a “village within a village”. What kind of open space will the project offer? Will the buildings be aesthetically well-conceived or the typical “build and run” model of apartment complexes? Why not go with a more grid-based “new Urbanist” design developing on the lot line and incorporating some commercial uses in the project? How will South Grand Street handle the increased traffic? Will their be sidewalks and bikeways connecting the project with the Village and the fairgrounds? These questions do not even take into account the potential for future growth in the area once water and sewer lines are set up. Remember as well, that this will be what travelers on I-88 see of Cobleskill.

How these questions are answered by developers depends to a large extent on how much they want access to Village infrastructure AND the degree to which Village officials are willing to hold developers’ feet to the fire.

Does Cobleskill have the capacity to both envision these changes and make them a reality? I think Mayor Sellers and Trustee MacKay have the Villages’ best interests at heart, but I don’t know if this community currently has the capacity to hold developers accountable to a deeper democratic agenda of participatory planning and sustainable development.

I think Mike Sellers, Rebecca Burgos-Thillet and co. need to begin building the “Community Matters” ballot line into a more substantial organization uniting activists in the county. Then and only then can you begin to mobilize people on issues ranging from increased apartment inspections, smart growth, downtown redevelopment and youth issues.

Until then, turn off the tap.


Anonymous said...

don't you worry! the whack job liberals on the planning board will run the development in the ground. what with a 23 year old kid who hasn't worked a day in his life(mcgiver), a whinning tree hugging wannabe malcontent(yoder), a gym teacher who doesn't know the difference between asphalt and concrete(butchochie)the village is well represented with this bunch. Now throw in the master maven of cobleskill ,Alexander I.(Intellectual)Mckay and you have a recipe for a disaster. Mr Nadeau get your checkbook out.

Anonymous said...

This is the second time I have heard reference to Mackay being a "maven". I believe the first instance was the Hyett palma study. The etymology of the word "maven" is yiddish. It means a "self" proclaimed expert. Hyett Palma must have spent a considerable amount of time with Mackay. Too bad their assessment of downtown wasn't as accurate as their assessment of our vaunted deputy mayor.

Sean Thomaston said...

Why should "Mr. Nadeau" get a free ride here?

He wants Village water and sewer services so he can construct nearly 60 units of apartment housing on a greenfield site outside of the incorporated Village.

A developer asking for this much needs to justify building such an expansive project, especially when Downtown Cobleskill could use new housing that is better integrated with the existing infrastructure.

A project like this, even if the Village gets the tax revenue is probably going to be a drain. Residential development generally costs more in taxes than it offsets. This may be slightly mitigated by the fact that most of the units are going to be marketed to seniors, which reduces the burden on the school system.

Still, shouldn't the Village be trying to steer developments like this one to the Village center, near Main Street?

I agree that the Planning Board seems to lack the capacity to address these challenges, though not for the reasons you mentioned.

By the way, who would you rather see on the Village Planning Board?

Galasso and his minions who work for Cobleskill Stone and Lancaster? Why not Nadeau himself? There's already one on the Town Planning Board?

Anonymous said...

"...which reduces the burden on the school system." Ah, yes, the heavy weight of the young, and their need for an education. Well, maybe school district consolidation is the answer to such "taxpayer woes". Just consider this: Cobleskill-Richmondville-Sharon Springs Central School District. "Best Schools"! HOW WONDERFUL!

Anonymous said...

You know, to look at what Mr. Nadeau has already constructed there doesn't look out of character with the site...(read, "high-density"). It, well, currently anyway, is reminiscent of the "Meadowcrest" development, further south in Greenville, which actually seems...nice! Now, for a gander at truly scary-ugly luxury condo "thangs", go to :(

Anonymous said...

Sean? How would "...the Village...steer developments like this one to the Village center, near Main Street?" Honest question. I don't know how that's done.

Anonymous said...

The village insists that the owner of Newberry's put the glass back in the store front or else!!!!!

If I was the owner I would paint a couple of cows and horses on the plywood like they did across the street. I am sure there are some interprising and aspiring grafitti artists that would lend there talent to the cause. Harmenszoon van Rijn Mackay might be available from his much ballyhooed rendition of "Horses ass does Main street" that debut this past summer at the burned out barn on main. newberry's needs a bulldozer not glass!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

"newberry's needs a bulldozer"...yep, a bulldozer mentality is That Which Becomes A "Legends"(no sic) Most, esp. 4 those who imagine themselves "up to Speed".

Anonymous said...

4 those who imagine themselves "up to Speed".

you sound like you are on speed. Stop with the cryptic nonsense. Try putting your thoughts in a sentence. Hell, we'll put up with run on sentences if you are capable.

Anonymous said...

"cryptic nonsense."...Yo, "Unsafe At Any Speed". Why don't you just run on back to the pile of sand your head is most comfortable in, and STICK IT!? Doubt there's any lack of YOUR capability in that regard. (Aside to BA: crave your indulgence, as usual.)

Sean Thomaston said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sean Thomaston said...

I wouldn't be so dismissive of the potential for public art to play a role in changing people's perceptions of Main Street.

It can be an empowering vehicle for civic engagement and political expression that strongly fosters a sense of place.

The best part: one doesn't have to be on par with Rembrandt to make a meaningful contribution to the betterment of their community.

All that is required is that they show slightly more pride in their community than the typical do-nothing, deadbeat, Downtown property owner.

Sean Thomaston said...

On second thought,

"typical do-nothing, deadbeat, Downtown property owner" is an appallingly harsh generalization. Let me qualify a little by saying that the majority of property and business owners do not fall into this category. Unfortunately, they're the ones who suffer most from the few bad apples that let their buildings go to pot and drag the others down with them.

Anonymous said...

It can be an empowering vehicle for civic engagement and political expression that strongly fosters a sense of place.

Go find a train siding.

Anonymous said...

On second thought

Did the boys and girls from Union street chastise you at tea for that remark. You got it right the first time. By the way what ever happened to the Hyett Palma strategery we paid twice for. Light poles were not at the top of the wish list. Clock is ticking for the "Boy" Mayor and his lap dog deputy.

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