Trustees change zoning law to expand business district

A new local law now on the books will result in the expansion of the Hudson Avenue business corridor northward to the village line.

The Board of Trustees voted unanimously Tuesday (Feb. 18) in favor of changes to the village zoning law in hopes of drawing new business to Stillwater and clearing up zoning issues that existing business owners say has been hampering them from selling their properties.

The board had been considering the changes since last fall when the matter was brought to the attention of Trustee Ellen Vomacka by Fred and Linda Tracy, owners of Fred’s Tents & Canopies, Inc. Under the former residential zoning, the Tracys claimed they could not sell their business because it could not continue to run as a business under new ownership.

Local Law No. 1 for 2014 changes that scenario by stretching the business district further along Hudson Avenue past the Fred’s Tents location. The new business district, with an (R1) residential overlay, now runs from the “existing boundary south side of Stratton Lane, one parcel back on the south side of Stratton Lane (west) to Colonial Road, then (east) to Hudson Avenue to the Hudson River one parcel back.”

An environmental review was required before the new law could be passed. That process began back in December when Trustees appointed the Village of Stillwater as the lead agent for the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process and began preparation of an Environmental Assessment Form (EAF) for the rezoning amendment as required by law and to amend the zoning map. The village was also required to give the Saratoga County Planning Board 30 days to review the plans before it could take action. Those plans were approved by the county and the Village Board held a public hearing on the law Tuesday night with no one speaking for or against it.

Following the public hearing, Trustees went step by step through the SEQR application and determined the zoning changes would present “no adverse effect on the environment.” They then authorized village attorney James Peluso to file a negative declaration with state and local authorities before adopting the law.

In other business, Trustees voted to adopt new health insurance coverage for village employees beginning March 1 that will offer workers “comparable coverage” while potentially saving the village about $10,000 to $12,000 a year in premiums.

The major difference employees will see is that instead of the village reimbursing workers for part of their co-pays for doctor visits and prescription purchases, it will now reimburse them for a $1,000 deductible each would be required to pay before the co-pay process begins. The village budgeted $70,000 for employee health insurance this fiscal year. The change could potentially lower that cost to under $60,000. Mayor Ernest Martin said the village plans to meet with village employees to explain the changes.

Village Trustees also heard the following reports/updates on February 18:

  • Trustee Timothy Campbell once again presented the idea of purchasing a new 9-ton excavator for the Department of Public Works that could rotate 360 degrees and house a small blade on the front of it. The cost would be about $107,000. The excavator could be used to tear down abandoned buildings in the village, Campbell said, that “we could purchase for little or nothing, then flip the land” and sell it as a building lot for new construction. “I ask Trustees to give this some thought,” Campbell said. “This is a program that could help taxpayers by increasing property values by eliminating abandoned properties that have become an eye sore and by getting new properties back on the tax rolls. It could be a win-win if it’s done properly.”
  • Trustee Vomacka reported that the third annual Winter Fest on Sunday, Feb. 16, was an “overwhelming success,” drawing a huge crowd to the village ice rink, nearby sledding area and community center. U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko also stopped by that day. “The turnout was great and we can’t wait until next year,” she said. She also reported that the fire department antique steamer truck has been moved to “its new home” at the old water treatment plant following renovations to the door and bay area. The fire department’s bylaws are also under final review and should be presented to Trustees this spring for approval, she said.
  • Trustee Judith Wood-Shaw reported that the monthly January Senior Time program drew about 20 people and the next event will be held on Friday, Feb. 28, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at The Stillwater Area Community Center. The Emergency Management Team also met in February and is planning to hold table top exercise drills later in the year.
  • Trustee John Basile reported that the village continues to work with the New York State Environmental Facilities Corp(EFC) to secure a 0 percent “hardship” loan – similar to what it received to fund the village sewer project. If approved, this could enable the village to repay its $3.7 million low interest loan with USDA and save the village thousands in interest payments. Basile said he hopes to hear news in the next three months.