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Residents and authorities want well-considered expansion | News

In recent months, residents of the Town of Milton have been asking the Town Council to take a step back and review the town’s zoning and features as they have come to terms with the idea of ​​a mixed-use development called Mill Town Center, likely to be built on 30 acres of land between Trieble Avenue and Rowland Street. The proposed project near the airport would bring 500 apartments and retail space to the area.

Recently, supporters of the Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta opposed a proposal to build a 700-unit housing complex on the race site that would include retail stores and other public amenities. They attended a board meeting on June 24 to voice their concerns.

GROWING NEED

Saratoga County has experienced exponential population growth since the 1970s and 1980s. According to census data, the population increased from 153,759 to 237,358 in 2020, representing a growth of 54.4%.

The Capital District Regional Planning Commission estimates that the county’s population could exceed 246,000 in 2030 and 250,000 in 2050.

The growth is partly due to the construction of the Northway between 1957 and 1967, which created a connection between Albany – via Saratoga County communities such as Malta, Milton and Clifton Park – and Montreal, Canada.

“Improving transportation in an area usually brings more people,” said Phil Barrett, the Clifton Park supervisor and chairman of the county board of supervisors. “It could be the Long Island Railroad, the T-Bahn in Boston, I-87 here in Saratoga County and beyond, but it has the same effect.”

Other factors such as jobs also play a role in attracting people to the area, with the expansion of GlobalFoundries’ microchip operations in Malta being cited by many developers as a reason for wanting to build in the region.

As for Malta’s growth, according to census data, the population is 17,130, compared to 6,968 in 1980. Milton’s population is 18,880, compared to 12,876 in 1980.

Peter Nelson has lived in Milton for 34 years and has seen the townscape change. The Mill Town Centre project inspired him and other residents to form Milton Citizens for Responsible Development, a group to address the “pace and scale” of development.

“Even though the project is within the city’s 2011 master plan zoning, it just feels so, so big,” Nelson said.

The density of development, particularly housing projects, continues to be a concern for both Milton residents and those who spoke at the recent Malta Town Board meeting about the proposed location for the expressway.

During another part of the meeting in Malta, board member Matt McLoughlin said he wanted to slow development in the city and wait for the city’s overall environmental impact statement.

“We know there will be development,” he said. “I want to sit down and think about what we want this city to look like in the future. We want to put in some safety measures, put in some gap fillers and preserve the character and aesthetics of Malta – the real reason why everyone came to live here.”

Two other board members agreed with him.

Barrett said he could understand McLoughlin’s views on pausing development and looking to the city’s future, something he himself did when he took office in Clifton Park in the early 2000s.

CLIFTON PARK PLANS

Much of Clifton Park’s growth occurred between the 1960s and 1990s, with a population boom and extensive residential and commercial development, Barrett said. He said by the 1980s, the town already had around 30,000 residents and by the early 2000s, it was around 33,000.

Because of the growth, Barrett said he felt a pause that the city took in 2003 when it issued an 18-month moratorium while it evaluated the city’s zoning using a general environmental impact statement. That pause allowed the city to review its zoning and eventually establish a new zoning.

For him, the considerable growth was also the starting point for the introduction of an open space planning process, which over the years led to the preservation of over 800 hectares of land in the city.

“That would set the stage for us to be able to reduce the density of future development if and when it happens and for the future,” Barrett said. “So those two measures were very important for us to slow down and get a handle on those very important elements to make sure the city has a balance between development and open and protected areas.”

The county followed suit and initiated an open space planning process in 2003 to protect more than 6,000 acres of land across the county, Barrett said.

While Barrett said he doesn’t like to give advice without first being asked by his colleagues at the district level, he noted that the planning processes in early 2000 laid the foundation for their work today.

“It’s important that you take vigorous steps to implement new zoning regulations or restrictions on certain parts of your law regarding residential density,” Barrett said. “It could be a number of things, but it’s very important that you do the proper studies where you can to get to a point where you can make an informed decision.”

The Capital District Regional Planning Commission recommends developing a comprehensive plan to guide cities in their zoning and future development decisions.

SHAPING THE FUTURE

“One of our most democratic processes is the comprehensive planning process. It allows the community to come together and really decide who they are as a people and how they want to live,” said Mark Castiglione, the commission’s executive director.

When a comprehensive planning process takes place depends on the municipality.

He said the comprehensive planning process allows communities to set standards for what their city should look like. However, he said the process should not begin because of a specific project, but rather out of the need to look at an area holistically.

“Oftentimes communities respond to proposals that don’t fit with what they want for their community, and we see that all the time,” he said. “I would say that development in Saratoga County is proceeding at a pace that we’ve generally seen over the last 40 years. So the rate of development is not increasing there, but there is certainly consistent development in a number of communities, and the shape of that development may change.”

Municipalities should consider a number of factors when preparing their master plans, including ensuring that the plans comply with land use regulations and strike a balance between environmental and development concerns.

Malta updated its comprehensive plan in July 2023 after not updating it since 2005, the city’s website said.

Nelson, the longtime Milton resident, said the city is beginning a new review of its master plan.

“I think at least the people I’ve talked to are cautiously optimistic that if we really go through the process as planned and do it in a transparent and engaging way, and then the engineering firm organizes all the data and presents it to the city council, we could get better insights into what the majority of the people in the city of Milton want,” he said.