CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — In his opening presentation to the town Board Monday on a proposal to change the long-familiar Edison Club into a bundled community, manager Craig McLean several times said that the club’s membership is the community.
That statement was proven true in the two hours that followed as members and past-members spoke in favor of the project during a public hearing held in the Clifton Park Senior Community Center.
The club’s board is asking the town for an amendment to the club’s original planned development district legislation to allow a “bundled community”, a lifestyle choice that offers a selection of housing styles with the requirement that all homeowners maintain membership in the club.
The private club, which McLean made clear is also nonprofit, has been at the Rexford site at 891 Riverview Road since 1926. Despite the fact that it offers members 27 holes of golf, tennis courts, swimming, dining and banquet facilities the club finds itself in financial straits due to reduced membership and an abundance of similar venues.
After first appearing before the board in 2017 with conceptual plans for the project, the club now seeks approval to reduce the number of holes for golf from 27 to 18. It will also build a maximum of 215 living units on the reclaimed land, sell the present club house to a senior care operator, sell approximately one acre of land to a local Stewart’s shop, and a build a new clubhouse.
The club has a total of 286 acres and has agreed to place a permanent conservation easement on the 163 acres used for golf. Should the club falter or be sold in the future and the golfing eliminated, the land must remain undeveloped.
The housing styles for the bundled community will offer buyers a choice of single family units, townhouses or condos. The new housing is to be placed along the Route 146 corridor and be hidden by the trees that now shield the club from the road.
The club house will be purchased by the Sun Carr Company which operates senior care facilities in Guilderland and Scotia. Once restored and renovated there will be 50 rooms with 60 beds. The facility will have capabilities for senior day care, memory loss, assisted living and independent living.
In making his case that club members are no different than anyone else, McLean said it is not made up of members who are elitist with an attitude of exclusivity.
“We have a very diverse group,” he said. “Anyone can come, use our dining facilities or stop in for drinks. The word private, is not restrictive or elitist. The vast majority of our folks live in the community.”
When the floor was opened to the public 15 residents of the Capital Region came to the microphone. Two thirds were club members or pat-members who expressed support for the plan.
Paul Lentz said he was living in Albany when he first played the golf course at the club thirty years ago. He fell in love with the place so much he joined and later moved to Clifton Park.
“Our membership is straining,” he said. “This will make the Edison Club successful. I urge you to strongly consider this.”
Bill Dowd said he’d been a member for 40 years. He noted the repurposing of the clubhouse and the permanent conservation of the 163 acres.
Rich Berkowitz of Halfmoon and a Town Planning Board member said he’d been a member for 15 years.
“This plan will allow the Edison Club to remain the western gateway to Clifton Park and allow a facility for our senior population,” he said. “It will have little impact on local schools yet adds to the tax base.”
Two speakers who expressed concern with the proposal were Susan Burton and Bill Kobbeman. Both have spoken out in the past with their concerns about plans for development in the town’s western section.
In her remarks Burton noted that the town’s own hamlet-residential design principles specifically reference Rexford.
“Although this proposal is a modification of the existing PDD, the lands of the Edison Club are essential to the character of western Clifton Park and should be subject, even in PDD form, to the same considerations as other properties in the existing zoning district that surrounds it,” she said. “Considering both the volume of the proposed development and location in an important corner of town, the town would be remiss not to consider future integration of this new neighborhood into the existing town fabric.”
Kobbeman referenced the town’s Western Generic Environmental Impact Study and its resulting zoning changes. He noted that due to its PDD status, the Edison Club’s plan to put 200 homes on approximately 100 acres with a private golf course flouts the zoning regulations established after the town’s Western GEIS.
This proposal, Kobbeman said, doubles the number of homes that developers would normally be allowed to build absent a PDD and is out of synch with the surrounding neighborhood. Should they want the additional housing units beyond what an ordinary developer would be allowed to put on the land, Kobbeman said the club should pay for them as any other developer would by using the incentive zoning section of the town code.
“(The plan) is not fair to other developers and it’s not fair to the surrounding area,” he said. “There is really no good reason why the applicant cannot play within the rules except that they want to increase their financial return on the project. Remember this project is about money. The Edison Club is a private club of well to do people - it is not a charity. The Town Board can and should require that the Edison Club and its developer abide by the same set of rules that would be required of the developer across the street.”
Town Supervisor Philip Barrett noted that the concern among some in the community is without some changes, if the Edison Club were to falter and no longer be able to manage the curse then there would be 286 acres of developable land available.
“Developers look for the highest and best use. In that area, is it golf; probably not so it would likely not be a golf course at that point,” Barrett said.
The Town Board closed the public hearing and will review the comments before taking action.