Malta Passes New Zoning Code and Round Lake Project Document – By Harold Wessell

MALTA, Feb. 4 – Malta Business and Professional Association president Steve Gottmann, , Saratoga Chamber of Commerce President Todd Shimkus, and in a letter Southern Saratoga County Chamber president Peter Bardunias, let their support to Monday evening's Malta Town Board set the stage for use of the Downtown Form Based Code zoning concept in the Town. 

Gottmann called the anticipated  adoption later in the meeting "a unique and proactive process... A  long time coming [it took about three years] , what I think is great about it is it has been an extensive opportunity for residents, stakeholders, professionals and others to be involved [in its adoption]."

"I think it provides clarity and a framework for a feasible and smart growth in the Town of Malta. There's a lot happening in Malta;" and large projects going on to attract many different people, who want to move here, and developers as well.

Another element he pointed to was "an element of fairness, as I read the code. That is, that for those projects that have already permitted projects, there are provisions that allow them, as I understand, to move forward, and I think that reaching-out and sending that message by the Town Board is a very good message, to not just developers but also residents." (Several details about such accommodations  were discussed and added to the legislation just before the vote.)

Shimkus, whose Chamber has 2700 members,  many in Malta, added to his similar supportive comments the  announcement of a new connection to Malta, the Chamber having recently expanded "in response to overwhelming need" its  small business counseling service – which is free and offered on a weekly basis. He characterized the Form Based Code as "really unique for New York State" adding that when he talked to a number of planners about the Code, some he particularly trusts "tell me that this is a great opportunity for the community. We're going to set a model for across New York State."

According to the Form Based Code Institute's website,

http://www.formbasedcodes.org/what-are-form-based-codes, the definition is in part that  "Form-based codes foster predictable built results and a high-quality public realm by using physical form (rather than separation of uses) as the organizing principle for the code. They are regulations, not mere guidelines, adopted into city or county law. Form-based codes offer a powerful alternative to conventional zoning. Form-based codes address the relationship between building facades and the public realm, the form and mass of buildings in relation to one another, and the scale and types of streets and blocks..."

The board adopted the Code, whose administrative details Building and Planning Coordinator Anthony Tozzi said should be complete in about  a month.

The board voted to approve the  Code 4-1, with Town Supervisor Paul Sausville voting in the negative; objecting that this was "like putting a square peg in  round hole... trying to make it look like  Saratoga Springs." He cited how  87 percent of respondents in a survey he conducted wanted to see "a more hamlet type vision of the downtown," while an urban vision is being carried over by adopting the Form Based Code.

Councilman John Hartzell prior to the vote called the change "something really in the forefront of planning – and adjoining communities are starting to consider. More learned and  more saw the value of it."

Also approved by the board, after a long and often contentious process, was the basic planning document of the  Round Lake Road Corridor Improvement Project.

During  public input on that matter, prior to the unanimous vote in favor, several residents expressed skepticism and even distrust over the board's handling of the proposal.

Kathy Eitzmann of Round Lake Rd. recalled how at the prior board agenda meeting, residents were told it was still in  process of developing the scope of services, that it was at least another month; yet it was on this week's agenda.  She said wanted to address her concern that "the citizens are not being told the full story."

Sausville  explained that Town officials were not aware, at that time, that the State Department of Transportation would sign off on the project  "so expeditiously."

But said  resident John Rich: "I'm really concerned about the honesty [of the board]... We've asked you three to four different questions – no answers... The people have stood up and said, we don't want it, and you seem to proceed, you want to go forward with it;" although also under pressure from the "love affection" he said the State's Department of Transportation seems to have with roundabouts. He seriously questioned the further half million dollars to be spent on a safety study, for an area that realistically is "not a walking community, not a biking community. It's people that travel in automobiles."

Also on the matter of safety observed resident Mark Spataro – "What really gets me, is the judgment of this community is made by an engineer... Any of us who has ever worked with an engineer knows they can take a number and make what the customer wants it to be "  – while the engineer doesn't have to live in the community, doesn't have to live with the results, is not going to be paying taxes in the community, and is not voting there. "People in this room will remember this – That's the bottom line... You're not working with us."

Sausville sought in reply to make it clear the option [of roundabouts vs.  signalized intersections]  has not been decided.  "That's why we're spending a half million dollars  to have an engineering firm look at safety issues"– probably until the summer. "So we're still in fact finding...I just want to make it clear that there has been no decision made [on tyhe above options]..Those findings he stressed  will be taken into consideration by the Town Board along with public input, and the research may not be completed until into summer.

 

In other actions or discussion:

-The board accepted a purchase bid of $144,000 for the Collamer Building, on Rte 9 and East High St.

-Parks and Recreation Director Audrey Ball reminded residents that the Saratoga County Soil and Water Conservation District is holding its annual bare root seedling purchase pogram, which she said she knows many residents take advantage of., to get a variety of trees and bushes at a very low price, "to landscape and attract deer, and birds and bees to your property." It can be found on he County website, saratogacountyny.gov, under Departments, and there is a detailed announcement when one clicks on Soil and Water.