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.