Qby. Town Board votes 3-1 for zone change for townhomes at former Mead’s

By Ben Westcott, Chronicle Staff Writer

The Queensbury Town Board voted 3-1 Monday in favor of a change of zone from Commercial Intensive to Moderate Density Residential requested by Foothills Builders for the 10.99-acre former Mead Landscape Nursery-Garden property between Meadowbrook and Ridge Roads.

Foothills Builders — owned by father and son Joseph Leuci — proposes to build 16 townhomes of four dwelling units each, plus a community building and paths.

The vote was also for general changes to the Town Code, specifically adding that multifamily dwellings can have a density of six units per acre, as long as the lot is at least 10 acres, served by municipal water and sewer, and has two points of ingress and egress.

Voting in favor were Supervisor John Strough and Councilmen Tim McNulty and Michael Dixon.

Against: Councilman Harrison Freer. Ward 1’s Anthony Metivier was absent.

“Commercial intensive is pretty intensive,” Mr. Strough explained. “There’s a lot of uses that I don’t think this town board would feel comfortable with, say, for example, a big box.

“So the town board is thinking something more transitional might be better for the neighbors that are there. Something more residential.

“Single-family residential didn’t seem to be appropriate, commercial intensive didn’t seem to be appropriate. So we went to the moderate density zoning.”

Mr. Freer said in dissent, “I think we need to be very cautious about unintended consequences on this specific property and on changing the zoning in this fashion.”

The Town Board’s vote did not make the rezoning official. Town staff must evaluate the protest petitions submitted from the public to see if they establish a supermajority requirement. If they did, it is possible that the Town Board’s vote does not constitute an approval.

Input pro & con from the public

Mr. Strough read a petition that “a lot of people” signed in opposition to the project, contending the proposed density is incompatible with the neighborhood, and issues of nighttime noise, light, activities and hazards related to increased traffic.

Mr. Strough also read notes in favor. Neighboring business Quantum Chiropractic sent a letter saying, “We feel it would be in the best interest of our neighborhood to see that property rehabilitated and put to good use.”

The owner of Advance Rental Supply, also adjacent, wrote, “I would prefer to see residential or light commercial similar to what was there prior, not a big box store.”

Several Ridge Road and Meadow Lane homeowners voiced concerns during the public hearing.

Jackie Cordell said the plan is too large for the neighborhood and would jeopardize its character. She expressed concerns about the safety of children in a walking school district [Glens Falls] and she is “very skeptical regarding the accuracy of the traffic study that was done.”

She added, “We have two parties that stand to gain from this transaction and make profit, and then you have everybody else that lives there that has to deal with whatever happens.”

Tanya Sommers said, “It seems a shame that there is that much property, but all of the buildings are literally going to be put up against the fences of the neighboring houses. We will have 24 backyards literally in our backyard.”

Joe Leuci, partner with his father in Foothills Builders, responded that he’s working on realigning the property by “pulling the buildings in towards the middle more to give ourselves more room for screening and green space in between the new buildings and the existing neighbors. We’re trying to move them further away from your backyards to enhance your privacy.”

Ms. Sommers raised another concern. She said, “I’ve seen the other properties and apartment buildings in the area, I’ve seen the trash on the streets.”

Mr. Leuci responded, “I think it’s important to remember that while they don’t own the properties, they will be long-term residents, and they’re going to care for the neighborhood the same way you do. We know that’s a concern that a lot of people have, but I think it’s a misnomer to think that people are going to be racing up and down the streets and littering, because it’s going to be their home too.”

Brian Straub raised environmental concerns, specifically citing a pond on the property that is “glowing neon green” and is “basically a toxic pond. He asked the town to have it tested “ because if it is, then this property development has to make sure that those toxic materials are not going to be disturbed and flowing into our wetlands.”

Attorney Jeff Meyer, representing Foothills Builders, said in response that the DEC doesn’t list the pond as a Superfund site, brownfield, or anything else with heavy contamination.

The project is next scheduled to go before the town Planning Board on May 14.

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