Friday, 19 May 2017 13:52

Malta Developer Makes a Case

An aerial view last winter of land for 91 proposed apartments north of Hutchins Road (foreground) in Milton. An aerial view last winter of land for 91 proposed apartments north of Hutchins Road (foreground) in Milton. Photo by PhotoAndGraphic.com.

MILTON — Plans to build 91 apartment units off Hutchins Road went under a microscope Wednesday night in a crowded second floor room at the town complex.  

Saratoga Springs Attorney Michael Toohey, representing Tom Samascott and Malta Development, was welcomed by the five-member Milton Town Board to give a presentation describing those construction plans. 

Malta Development is proposing to raze an existing home at the intersection of Hutchins Road and Greybirch Trail, in order to clear 14 acres of woods behind the home for new roads and several apartment buildings with multiple units. 

Milton Supervisor Dan Lewza and the board members—before dodging a minor disruption from the audience—then voted to set a formal public hearing for the project on July 5.  

Toohey explained that a trend exists in real estate to build “alternative housing” for people over 55 who favor the idea of “aging in place.” Malta Development aims to serve that market need with its Hutchins Road project, he said. 

“We need to size down the houses we live in,” Toohey said at one point. “This concept is not strange to the town.”  

Toohey showed design slides depicting modern units with one level, saying that “everything can be maintained on the first floor to make life easier” for aging residents. 

He predicted that it would have the “same impact” in terms of a traffic increase as the construction of 20 to 25 single-family homes. 

Lewza asked Toohey why Malta Development is proposing 91 apartments instead of single-family houses, dozens of which were built decades ago around much of the land in question. 

“We see the demand for it,” Samascott answered from his front row seat. 

Samascott’s firm developed and manages the 586-unit Winner’s Circle apartment complex on Geyser Road. There are also plans to add 120 more units at Winner’s Circle in the future, he said.  

Samascott admits that his own mother has been a longtime resident of Coachman Drive. Her house sits within a few hundred yards of the Hutchins Road project site.

Lewza, noting how he was not required to do so, politely invited Hutchins Road resident Dorothy Christiansen to respond after Toohey’s presentation was done. The supervisor said she could “represent everybody” in attendance with concerns about the project.     

This past winter, many local homeowners—led by Christiansen—submitted petitions to the town board opposing Malta Development’s plans, which are months away from receiving a final approval.

Christiansen, through social media, had encouraged her neighbors to attend the May 17 meeting, and many obliged. Practically every chair in the room was being used.

One resident was moved enough by Toohey’s presentation to exclaim “55 is not senior,” before Christiansen herself pointed to the potential traffic impacts of the project.  

She said Hutchins Road already “has been turned into a track run” by drivers who use the street as a cut through between Rowland Street and Route 50, often “peeling out” at local intersections with stop signs.

The Hutchins Road project would only increase the dangers on local streets where lots of kids are on bikes and individuals regularly walk with their pets, she said last winter.

Christiansen disputed the market need for senior housing. She also implored the town board to enforce current zoning rules for the land, which she said do not allow a project of that size. Only single-family homes should be approved to keep the character of the neighborhood, she said.

Lewza advised Samascott and Toohey to leave the room as a means to continue the board meeting without additional comments from the public directed at them.

Still, one Hutchins Road homeowner kept interrupting Lewza as the board chairman tried to complete the remaining agenda items. He had demanded to know why the public hearing date was changed from June 7 to July 5, and Lewza threatened to call the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office to have the man forcibly removed.

The homeowner later apologized to the full board for his remarks. 

Lewza said scheduling conflicts had necessitated the change, and offered to keep the public hearing “open” after July 5.

One local mother concluded the brief public comment period by saying she has a disabled child at home, and that she’s as concerned about increased traffic on Hutchins Road as Christiansen and other residents.

“I’m just looking for the safety of my children,” she said. 

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