Niskayuna considers new zoning district; affects O.D. Heck

Aerial view of the Oswald D. Heck Development Center in Niskayuna. (Photo provided)Aerial view of the Oswald D. Heck Development Center in Niskayuna. (Photo provided)

— The town of Niskayuna is taking steps to create new zoning district code that would allow for a mix of neighborhood and commercial properties. If the code is created, the town plans to look into rezoning a portion of Consaul and Balltown roads that includes the O.D. Heck Development Center, even as the facility’s future remains uncertain.

At a public hearing Sept. 26, the Planning Board and Zoning Commission discussed the rezoning and invited residents to share their thoughts on the issue.

When the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities first announced it would close the O.D. Heck Center in 2014, the town began to consider creating a new zoning code. However, discussion of the new zoning district was delayed as town leaders waited to see what the state had planned for the property.

Town Planner Laura Robertson said Matt Miller and Kathy Matern, the previous town deputy attorney and town planner, spearheaded the process during their time in office. Robertson said she is continuing their work in creating a new zoning code.

“We don’t have anything like it in our code right now,” Robertson said, “It’s just going to allow for a mixture of commercial and residential and not specify that they have to be on different floors.”

The area that the town is considering to rezone first if the code is created is between the Hannaford Plaza and Mohawk Commons, which is zoned as medium density residential.

The rezone would buffer the two large commercial areas of Mohawk Commons and the Hannaford Plaza with multi-family residential areas and allow for a better transition to the residential areas of Consaul Road.

“… in some places around here, the commercial businesses that are all on the first floor are not quite filling up … there can be a point where there’s a mixture and a balance,” Robertson said of the new zoning district proposal.

Leslie Gold, a Niskayuna resident who attended the hearing, said she didn’t have a problem with the zone change.

However, she did caution it was an experimental change and that it would be best if it only impacted the O.D. Heck Center’s campus.

At 44 acres, the area that the town is considering for the new zoning district is exclusive to the O.D. Heck campus.

The Planning Board is expected to discuss the zoning district again on Oct. 17, when it is also expected to recommend action to the Town Board. The zoning district could be ratified as early as December.

Robertson said at that time, town leaders will have a discussion with representatives from O.D. Heck about rezoning the area.

“They would be grandfathered into the old code,” Robertson said. Thus, the administrative operations of O.D. Heck would not be affected.

However, any new developer or entity that may try to purchase the property in the new zone would be subject to the neighborhood mixed-use code.

Reach Gazette reporter Indiana Nash at 417-9362, or @indijnash on Twitter.