By Mark Frost, Chronicle Editor
Queensbury developer Rich Schermerhorn envisions building more than 100 apartments on the Quaker Road site where F.W. Webb proposed and then withdrew constructing a 96,0000 square-foot distribution center and retail store.
The proposal is very preliminary.
Mr. Schermerhorn, his attorney Jonathan Lapper and project engineer Joe Dannible met informally with town officials in a workshop on November 15.
Mr. Lapper said, “Rich now has the property under contract with the Nemers,” Robert and Peter Nemer.
It would require a zoning change from its current Commercial Intensive.
The site is across Quaker Road from Garvey Volkswagen/Kia.
Several issues arose at the workshop.
Density may be the key issue
Town Supervisor John Strough said the town has looked to limit the density of townhomes proposed by Foothills Builders — Joe Leuci, father and son — at the nearby former Mead’s Nursery property.
He said MDR zoning — Moderate Density Residential — as applied to the Leucis’ project allows 6 units per acre, minus steep slopes and wetlands.
Mr. Lapper said, “We were hoping for Office [Zone] use on this parcel, which would allow 8 units per acre minus steep slopes and wetlands.”
Mr. Strough said, “Our job is to be consistent with all developers. We said no to the office zoning to the Leucis. We should say the same thing to you.”
Mr. Lapper said, “Rich is hoping to do a three-story building and get over a hundred units, because the parcel can easily handle that.”
He said the usable land on the site is “about 11 acres…Under MDR we could only get 66 [units] approximately.”
Mr. Lapper acknowledged they could still seek some density variance in either Office or Moderate Density Residential.
Mr. Schermerhorn said, “If I couldn’t get a minimum of a hundred units, I’d probably say it’s probably not worth it to me…because just getting permission to go under the power lines is a pain…” and linking into “the water and sewer. There’s a lot of money in there to do the project.”
Mr. Schermerhorn said affordable housing is in urgent need “and the more we cut density down, all it does is drive costs up.”
Housing itself is in scarce supply.
“I have 2,300 units and two vacancies right now,” Mr. Schermerhorn said.
Mindful of resistance to F.W. Webb
He was mindful of the fierce opposition to the F.W. Webb plan by residents of the adjacent Windy Hill and Windy Ridge neighborhood in Glens Falls.
But he also noted that the property is zoned for heavy commercial. “They could get a Kohl’s, they could have tractor trailers coming in at night,” he said.
Mr. Schermerhorn asked, “What other quiet use can you do? And the quietest use you can do is really apartments….Other than putting a self storage or cemetery there, I don’t know what else you could do that’s going to make it quiet for the neighbors.”
Ward Three Councilman George Ferone interjected, “I just wonder if…it’s just ‘I don’t want anything back there,’ NIMBY [not in my backyard].
Ward One Councilman Anthony Met-ivier said, “If they don’t want anybody there, they’re gonna have to buy it.”
Mr. Schermerhorn said of his apartment plan, “I know Glens Falls School District would love it because there’s no more growth in Glens Falls.”
He said it would generate tax revenue for both the Glens Falls City School District and the Town of Queensbury.
And he noted that he pays full taxes.
“In my 35 years of business, I’ve never asked for a PILOT [payment in lieu of taxes], exemptions on sales tax, anything.”
‘Two points of ingress & egress’
Mr. Strough said the town is requiring “two points of ingress and egress” for the Leucis’ project and he would expect that of the Schermerhorn project.
“I would definitely like to see another access out to Quaker Road,” Mr. Strough said.
Concerns were expressed about emergency vehicle access plus difficult sight lines as Quaker Road curves by the site.
Project engineer Mr. Dannible said that international fire code and New York fire code only require one access point for up to 200 housing units.
Mr. Strough said, “I’m insisting on two access points but I’m just one vote” on the five-member town board.
Mr. Schermerhorn said, “No doubt the traffic is tricky” but “any use other than this is gonna be greater than this.”
Another issue is that “National Grid has this huge power corridor out front. We only have one crossing right,” Mr. Lapper said, so that’s another issue to be hammered out.
Possible cooperation on park & trails
Mr. Strough noted that former Glens Falls Mayor Dan Hall is heading an effort to create a trail system and environmental park involving the city-owned former Tennis & Swim Club and private land.
Mr. Schermerhorn and Mr. Lapper expressed openness to incorporating trails into the apartment project.
“I am the easiest guy in the world to work with. I really am,” said Mr. Schermerhorn.
Mr. Strough replied, “You are.”
About the apartment plan overall, Mr. Schermerhorn told the panel, he just wanted to “run it by you guys and see what you think. I know I could do a nice project.”
Mr. Schermerhorn said the three-story apartment buildings he’s erected on Dix Avenue in Hudson Falls next to Ginny Rae’s Restaurant are “the prototype” for what he envisions on the Nemers’ land.
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