Thursday, January 8, 2009

Capital District Sprawl Spreads its Tentacles

For residents of the remote corner of the Capital District that includes the communities of Duanesburg, Central Bridge, Esperance and southeastern Montgomery County, the proposed Hannaford Grocery store may come as exciting news. Less exciting however is the possibility that one of the few remaining undeveloped areas in the Capital District is about to be paved over to make way for more strip mall banality.

Long neglected by grocery chains due to its low population density, this area has never before had to contend with the effects of big-box commercial development on its communities. But this current proposal is a sign that things are changing and residents really ought to begin thinking about what they want their communities to look like after all this is said and done.

The proposed 35,000 square foot store and accompanying shopping center will be located at the intersection of U.S. Highway 20 and State Route 30, just outside the Village of Esperance. There is currently a Stewarts Shop gas station and a tavern at the intersection. If the Hannaford’s is built, more commercial development near this intersection would be a safe bet.

Unfortunately, since this area is so eager for a local grocery store, you can bet that the Duanesburg Planning Board won’t hold out for a more tasteful site plan or higher architectural standards which might complement the historic Village of Esperance and add more to the area than just another big ugly box.

Instead this will likely be an early sign of what is to come: poorly planned exurban Capital District sprawl. Let me say that I sympathize with area residents who must drive 20 minutes to buy a roll of toilet paper. But how long will it be until Highway 20 in Duanesburg looks like Highway 20 in Guilderland?


Anonymous said...

This is so have no idea what the Duanesburg Planning Board has in mind and what has been proposed, beyond what you have read in the newspapers. You just assume that they are all a bunch of morons with no idea of architectural standards and who put no thought whatsoever into what will be the future of development within their town.
But at least you have something new to criticize!
This is just another example of the arrogance and ignorance that I have come to expect from the author (or authors) of this blog

Sean said...

Actually, your response is typical of a lot of the posters on this blog who read things that just aren't there.

The post was intended as a general commentary on the pattern of development that seems to be creeping westward from the Capital District, not an exhaustive dissection of the actions of the Duanesburg Planning Board, who I most certainly did not call "a bunch of morons".

I did however speculate that the Duanesburg Planning Board would most likely attempt to accommodate the development in response to the community's apparent clamoring for a grocery store, which may or may not be the case. If not, I will be pleased to have been proven wrong.

Accusing me of arrogance and ignorance is also very typical. I'm afraid you're going to have to do better than that if you want to get your quote on my wall of shame.

Anonymous said...

Do corporations go into areas where people "clamor" for their presence? Or do they build where they think they'll make a buck?

"...residents really ought to begin thinking about what they want their communities to look like after all this is said and done."

1. Think about what they want their communities to look like.
2. Go to public meetings to find out about the project.
3. Contact public officials and publicly encourage them to do the best for the community.
4. Elect people who care about the area.

Sean said...

"Do corporations go into areas where people "clamor" for their presence? Or do they build where they think they'll make a buck?"

Once again you people have twisted my words around to make me look naive and foolish.

Nice job, by the way.

Anonymous said...

Either way this close enough ,that says goodbye sales tax$$$$ and thank you politicians for screwing up your developments so we can reap your needed tax $$

Anonymous said...

For the record, there is no accompanying shopping center, simply a Hanaford grocery store. I suspect you did not attend the meeting of the Planning Board held on Thursday night past. If you had you would have seen the attention paid to this project. The Duanesburg Planning Board was a priceless work of art and our local government should be proud of themselves for representing the people of Duanesburg so well. There were letters received from two seperate observatories that use the Landis Arboretum for skywatching. Coincidentally and/or ironically they, like you, were not from the town but from Schenectady and Albany. After much discussion a lighting plan was agreed to that would satisfy the requirements of Hanaford as well as please the observatories. Lower light poles and a reduction to approximately 2.5 footcandles shining down. As for your comment concerning site plan and architectual standards to complement historic Esperance? Esperance Mayor was in attendance, he and his village love the project and are looking forward to not driving 15 miles to pick up that roll of toilet paper you mention. The site plan did not need revision as it is situated in a lower area of the surrounding properties and will not stick out like a sore thumb. The town is confident, and so am I, that capital district sprawl will not be an issue.

Sean said...

“The Duanesburg Planning Board was a priceless work of art and our local government should be proud of themselves for representing the people of Duanesburg so well.”

I would be very surprised if the entire preceding post wasn’t written by a member of the Duanesburg planning board.

For the record, according to the Daily Gazette “Chris Schneck and Bill Feinstein of Ventura-Duanesburg LLC (who) are developing the project (...) said plans include other commercial buildings for the property, which encompasses 58 acres off the busy intersection.”

Maybe the plans changed between when the Daily Gazette ran this article and when the developers presented their plans to Duanesburg’s “priceless” planning board. Maybe the reporter doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Maybe the author of the preceding post doesn’t know what they're talking about. Either way, I didn't just pull that information out of my ass.

I’ll admit it is perfectly likely that this particular project may not end up being a total eyesore. However, the level of scrutiny given to the site plan was really only a minor part of my complaint. I’m more concerned about the increasing scattered commercial and residential development along Highway 20 between Esperance and Duanesburg. I’m not saying that no planning is taking place. Planning has occurred, it’s just a bad plan.

While I appreciate the issue of a lack of proximity to a grocery store, at some point, you have to ask these people: why move to a rural area and expect all the amenities of the suburbs?

Are you really that “confident that Capital District sprawl is not going to be an issue”? If so, you need to open your eyes because it already is an issue.

If you really don’t see what’s happening than I suspect you are not paying very close attention at all those planning board meetings you’re attending.

Anonymous said...

No, I'm not a planning board member. Just a humble resident of the town.......since 1937.

Rick said...

I think you have to take development proposals like this one one on a case by case basis and not make broad generalizations.

I would agree that there are numerous examples of retail 'over building' in the Capital District. How many examples do we have where shiny new plazas are built, only to see older plazas empty and abandoned? Someone needs to step to the plate and encourage more regional planning/zoning.

I think the current proposal to raze the Ingersoll property in Niskayuna/Schenectady fits into that category. Niskayuna probably figures the property is on the far end of their town (away from the wealtiest neighborhoods) so why not steal some sales tax dollars from neighboring Colonie, Schenectady or Rotterdam. So we shift some stores to the new plaza and leave empty spaces in older plazas.

However, one should be pragmatic in these things and the Duanesburg/Esperance Hannaford will be a net plus for the area.

Take a ride through historic Esperance and you will see that half the buildings could probably use a good coat of paint. It is a village with potential, but it displays the blight seen in much of Upstate NY beyond the immediate Hudson Valley/Capital District area.

(I'll never understand why people can't give up one toy - HD-TV, new skidoo, etc. and have enough pride to paint their house...but that is another issue.)

Economically speaking -there is the Hudson Valley from NYC to Saratoga and then there is the rest of Upstate NY - with a few anomalous oasis thrown in like Cooperstown, Skaneateles and Ithaca.

Bringing Hannaford to the area will undoubtably make it much more desireable for Albany area communters and this spin off will probably attract people to that west end of Duaneburg and Esperance. The Duanesburg School District has a good reputation and that has been a definite draw, but the 10-15 mile drive for a supermarket is a major negative.

I would love to recreate the thriving agrarian economy that existed in the hey day of places like Esperance, but that isn't going happen. Attracting people with a higher household income is the best bet, not to mention that it will be a great convenience for existing residents.

Also an addendum... You will never have Guilderland type development out here because of the water supply (or lack thereof). It would never support intense development. This is the Schenectady geologic formation and it is totally different from the Pinebush areas to the east.

Sean said...

But Rick, the whole point of the piece was to make "broad generalizations" about what the future holds for this corner of the capital region.

Looking at particular developments on a case-by-case basis is fine, but that misses the point. Developments like this Hannaford are harbingers of future exurban growth.

You said it yourself, "Bringing Hannaford to the area will undoubtably make it much more desireable for Albany area communters and this spin off will probably attract people to that west end of Duaneburg and Esperance."

I wonder if this is really the best that communities like Esperance/Duanesburg can hope for. I also wonder if it is the best thing for the Capital Region's urban centers and older inner ring suburbs.

As for Esperance, well, Downtown Esperance's problems are nothing that a couple hundred thousand dollars in grant or stimulus money couldn't fix.

"(I'll never understand why people can't give up one toy - HD-TV, new skidoo, etc. and have enough pride to paint their house...but that is another issue.)"

Personally, I'll never understand how people who move out to the country from the suburbs have the nerve to criticize how the long-term residents live. If you want perfectly neat little houses and perfectly manicured lawns, why not stay in Clifton Park?

"Attracting people with a higher household income is the best bet"

So the people of Duanesburg and Esperance will benefit from higher housing costs and higher school and property taxes?

And as for the water supply issue, it seems like there are a lot of municipalities in the region with water supply capacities that exceed the local usage.

Currently, Canajoharie, with Beech-Nut leaving, is trying to get the village of Sharon Springs to buy its water.

With the likely business closings to come as a result of this current recession, I would expect to see more of this.

Sad, pathetic, and tragic but unfortunately part of our current reality.

Rick said...

I don't necessarily buy the argument that increasing the population a bit would increase school taxes. The reason being that the Duanesburg district is a very small school system (950 students) and this means that the amount of staff needed per student is considerably higher than a much larger district like a Guilderland for instance.

The state mandates a certain mimimum level of staff, programs, etc. across the academic spectrum and a small district like Duanesburg has to provide the same teachers and specialists, even if only a small number of their students need them. (Simplified Example: Guilderland can hire a specialist and serve 50 students. Duanesburg may only have 8 students who need that same service, but the state mandates that they provide it and it is a lot less cost effective per student.)

If you add a few hundred students it probably won't mean that much increase in staff, but if those few hundred students are the children of "exurbanites" who build pricier homes and thus pay higher school taxes, the net effect will be a plus for district's coffers.

Hey I wish we didn't rely on property taxes to fund education as it is a very regressive form of taxation. But we do and I'm just looking at it from a practical standpoint. This is no knock on the natives, etc.

Theoretically you can reach a point where the net gain of students (and attendant costs) can exceed the increased tax revenues and become an overall drag, but that would mean large scale development and I don't see if happening anytime soon.

The water issue is key because there is very limited municipal water in the town and the water table is low. Therefore you can't have intense development. You mentioned municipal water supplies in other towns, but that has no bearing on Duanesburg that I can see. Those towns are probably too far afield from the Capital District to ever get many commuters out there.

Also lets face it...look at the climate out here compared to Albany. How many Albany/Schenectady people can take the winters and the almost daily blowing and drifting snow, etc. :) And we haven't even had bad winters the last several years. I just don't think Duanesburg is turning into Rotterdam anytime soon.

Finally... Sure if some people in Esperance or elsewhere choose to live in messy, unpainted structures then that is their business. It is a free country. I would never advocate forcing someone to do anything with their private property.

But this is a newer development - not some time honored tradition of rural living. I guarantee that if you drove through Esperance in 1950, you would see a real difference. At one time it was a matter of civic pride to keep your village or city looking as good as possible.

And I'm not from a cookie cutter perfect new suburb. I've only been around here for five years, but I'm from down near Catskill and grew up on 40 acres in a rural area there. It was pretty mixed in terms of incomes, homes, etc... Nothing like Saratoga County suburbs....

Sean said...

"I don't necessarily buy the argument that increasing the population a bit would increase school taxes"

Hell, it might not. But you also have to consider the fact that those damn "exurbanites" tend to like their public school education with all the bells and whistles. This tends to drive the budgets up, which tends to increase school taxes, theoretically at least.

On the water issue, your seemingly deliberate refusal to read what I actually wrote is somewhat frustrating. I didn't just mention "municipal water supplies". I actually mentioned the fact that the village of Canajoharie (and here we go again) is trying to sell water to Sharon Springs, some 20 miles to the south, to make up for the lack of a major water user with Beech-Nut leaving.

The point that I was making, which bears very significantly on Duanesburg, was that other communities with water to spare might attempt to establish water districts in the Esperance/Duanesburg area.

Rick said...

Sorry, I misunderstood what you meant regarding the municipal water supplies. It would be logistically possible to divert water to Duanesburg if the economic realities supported it. Princetown recently ran water mains out to their short route 20 corridor - tapping into Rotterdam's municipal water.

(I haven't seen any new development along there yet anyway. Actually a lot of us thought that a site along there might be the spot for a supermarket, but the Hannaford in western Duanesburg may now have made that less likely.)

I think we are talking well out into the future however given the current economy. Also I don't think the powers that be in Duanesburg now would be supportive of anything that could lead to more intense development. Finally this kind of thing would be very costly and our current "dysfunctional" system always expects government aid or matching grants for this kind of thing. I don't really see any such aid being forthcoming in the near future.

So yeah maybe 2020, 2030, who knows what lurks in the distant future?

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