CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — The Town Board Monday moved another step closer to having 100 apartments replace the vacant Kmart building in Shopper’s World Plaza on Route 146.
To help facilitate that action, the Town Board held two public hearings at its Aug. 19 meeting.
The first dealt with an administrative housecleaning issue that establishes a formal procedure for granting requests for residential density bonuses within the Town Center boundaries. Shopper’s World Plaza which includes the Kmart site is in the Town Center.
The change will clarify the Town Center zoning code as to what must be done by an applicant when requesting approval to build residential projects within the Town Center that exceed the stated limits.
Presently the code has a limit of 10 dwellings per acre up to a maximum of 50 units. However, additional density may be allowed, with Town Board approval, provided the applicant provides for the design and/or construction of additional amenities with the Town Center for the use and enjoyment of the general public.
The code states the amenities must include provisions for on-site and/or off-site improvements beyond those required to service the needs of the project.
The amenities noted in the code regulations include recreational areas such as a public park or playground, residential housing facilities for individuals of low to moderate incomes, stormwater retention or detention ponds, and a reduction in overall impervious surface area on the site to reduce runoff.
The night’s second public hearing focused on a first request to the board for approval of a density bonus. That request is being made by Clifton Park-based Windsor Development with a project called Park Place Development.
The company is asking the Town Board for approval to build two, four-story apartment buildings containing 100 units on the five-acre vacant Kmart site, 15 Park Place.
In a brief presentation to the board Monday, consultant Joe Dannible explained the details of the project, including amenities that fit the density bonus requirement like the reduction in impervious surfaces, stormwater retention ponds, and a pocket park at the towers’ drop-off and pick up area.
“All impacts from the residential community will be less than what’s there today,” he said.
Town Supervisor Philip Barrett acknowledged that the retail industry is in a changing environment due to society’s comfort with buying items online.
“We’d rather the brick and mortar environment for retail remain vibrant, remain a constant in our community, but unfortunately it’s been clear for years for that to happen retailers must change and if municipalities like Clifton Park don’t change with the times we will find ourselves in a very very difficult situation; with our tax base and financially,” he said. “What will happen to municipalities like Clifton Park when there is a downturn [in the economy]? I think about it every day.”
Barrett said it was that situation that triggered additional options for development being placed in the Town Center Plan’s code when it was first considered.
“I don’t think we have a choice but to consider additional options,” he said.
The lone voice at both public hearings asking the board to look more carefully at what it was considering belonged to Ann Connolly. Connolly is concerned that a rush by developers seeking density bonuses could result in a Town Center that’s been changed for the worse.
Pointing to apartment projects undertaken across the country to revive aging malls that have failed, such as several in the Dallas, Texas, area; she questioned whether Windsor Development was truly going to build units that were attractive and affordable for Millennials.
“They tried to get apartments in Crossgates Mall, and it was shot down,” Connolly said. “I want to see Windsor Development work with the town to get a winning plan so that they win and the town wins.”
After the hearings, she expanded on why she questions whether the company really has young professionals in mind as part of its target market.
“I don’t think they [have] done their homework,” she said. “Millennials want one-bedrooms with affordable rents, good Wi-Fi throughout, smart built-in devices like smart thermostats, fitness rooms, and common areas with big TVs. I don’t hear that as part of this plan. The amenities they describe are not going to attract them.”
Connolly said she’s concerned if the market for millennials and empty-nesters isn’t great enough the building will find itself with families with children leading to another situation entirely.
“I don’t want to see the failure to fill those apartments bring down Clifton Park,” she said.