Group building Niskayuna a 10-year road map

infographicBy REBECCA ISENHART
Gazette Reporter

NISKAYUNA — The town of Niskayuna’s Comprehensive Plan committee can’t predict the future, but they hope to help shape it.

On June 17, the committee presented an in-depth road map for the next decade in Niskayuna. The committee spent two years analyzing the town’s assets and predicting the problems it might face, and its plan offered some potential solutions.

“The time to plan and the time to take action is not when something occurred. That’s reaction,” committee member Keith Frary said.

The committee, made up of seven volunteers from Niskayuna, follows a tradition of planning that began in 1960.

Since then, there have been six comprehensive plans, adapted about once every 10 years.

“This document is not a checklist of things to do for this town as much as it’s a conceptual plan and diagram with a host of different things that we, as best we could, sat and anticipated,” Frary said.

“We don’t always have money to do the things we want to do,” committee co-chair Dart Strayer said. “We have to make the decision now so 10 years down the road or 15 years down the road when opportunities afford us, we can take advantage.”

Niskayuna’s comprehensive plans are not laws. However, if the plan is adopted by the Town Board, it must be consulted before variance requests and zone changes are granted.

Beyond aspiring to improvements, the comprehensive planning volunteers were also tasked with anticipating potential problems. One major concern is land use.

The town is reaching what committee members referred to as “full buildout,” with only 20 percent of town land considered vacant, and much of that dedicated to important green space such as parks.

“We need to be cognizant that open space is nonrenewable,” Strayer said.

Such high-density development requires more careful consideration about allowing new construction.

Anticipating a high demand for vacant lots and even existing homes that could be bought and demolished to allow for new construction, the committee gave a great deal of thought to preserving the character of 20 specific sections of town.

“They’re focusing on neighborhoods, which is a good thing,” Town Supervisor Joe Landry said.

He expects to inspect the final version, along with the Town Board, in late summer. Another public hearing will be held in early fall before the document can be officially adopted.

As their evaluative process came to a close, committee members expressed satisfaction with the final product.

“It’s a wonderful thing to be able to say 10 years ago, a committee sat and came up with these ideas and some of them were accomplished,” Frary said.

“In 10 years, somebody’s going to sit here and say, ‘Wow, the 2013 planning committee brought this up and proposed this. And look, it happened,’ ” he said.

 

Comprehensive review

  • Some specific recommendations of the town of Niskayuna’s Comprehensive Plan committee:
  • Alleviating traffic at the intersection of Balltown and Aqueduct roads, near the Rexford Bridge.
  • Increasing safety for pedestrians and cyclists, especially as more residents use bicycles as a mode of commuting and transportation, not just recreation.
  • Conducting a survey of all vacant space in Niskayuna to help determine which areas are crucial to preserve despite development pressure.
  • Carefully considering zoning changes to prevent the town from being flooded with additional retail space.
  • Instituting a historical-marker program for significant landmarks.
  • Establishing an architectural review board to protect treasured buildings.
  • A comprehensive rewrite of zoning code, which was developed in 1972.

The full plan is available for download on the town’s website.

About the Author

Rebecca Isenhart
Rebecca Isenhart is the reporter/writer for Your Niskayuna, presented by the Daily Gazette of Schenectady.