By Kassie Parisi
CLIFTON PARK — Discussion of a proposal to convert an office building into apartments on Barney Road was pre-empted March 6 at a town zoning board of appeals meeting.
Clifton Park Town Hall was packed with residents who had turned out to hear about the project, which is slated for 1 Barney Road. But, citing a need to respond to a plethora of residents’ concerns — expressed both online and through petitions — regarding traffic and other impacts on the neighborhood, a representative of the developer asked the board to table the application.
Jacqueline Phillips Murray, representing her father and owner of the property Robert L. Phillips, said the move will give Phillips a chance to meet with neighbors to discuss their concerns.
“We know it’s generated a lot of public interest,” Phillips Murray said of the project. “What I learned from reading the petitions that are out there, and the comments online, is that we need to do a better job communicating more concrete details of this plan to all of you, because we are not here to try to do something that diminishes the quality or aesthetics of your neighborhood.”
The former office building is in the Clifton Knolls/Mill Creek neighborhood, next to the Barney Road town swimming pool.
It is on a 3.89-acre lot and comprises 30,312 square feet of space, according to a zoning permit filed with the town.
But the area is zoned R-1, which does not allow multi-family use, so in order to convert the building Phillips must secure a use variance.
The apartments, Phillips Murray argued, could provide older neighborhood residents with the option of staying in the area without the responsibility of maintaining a house. Apartments would be better suited to the surrounding area than an office building anyway, she said.
“It’s a residential neighborhood. We all know that,” she said.
The reality of the situation, she added, is that the developer can’t maintain the building in its current state, because of a lack of income from the property.
“My family has made a go of operating it since 2001,” she said.
Because the project was tabled, residents were not permitted to ask questions about it at Tuesday’s meeting. Many residents expressed concerns that they wouldn’t be informed about when the project will next be in front of the board.
Town law dictates that residents living within a 500-foot radius of proposed development projects must receive mailed notices of meetings during which those projects will be discussed, with those notices coming from the developer.
But 500 feet, audience members argued, was inadequate.
Jim Taylor, a Beechwood Drive resident, said the rule excludes residents of roads that branch off of Barney who will also be affected by the development.
Phillips Murray said she would be willing to expand the radius from 500 feet to 1,000 feet, but that failed to placate critics.
“A thousand feet will not cut it,” said John Ryan, a Clifton Knolls resident.
Some residents criticized the Zoning Board of Appeals for even allowing Phillips to submit an application, saying that granting a use variance would be like giving the applicant a free pass to allow the building to fall into disarray.
ZBA chairman Michael Dudick responded that everyone who owns property in town has the right to come to the board to at least ask for a use ordinance, or to develop their properties.
Issues regarding the state of the property or applicant, Dudick said, come into the equation when the board is deciding whether to grant a request.
“We don’t go by assertions,” he said.
It was not known, as of the March 6 meeting, when the applicants would meet with residents or when the project would be in front of the board again, though Phillips Murray said she planned to be back “within 60 days.