THE TOWN OF SCHODACK
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This is the 1994 Strategic Plan by the Long-Term Planning Commission. It has three sections.
The Town Board resolution establishing the Commission
The press release summarizing the strategic plan recommendations
The Strategic Plan
LONG-TERM PLANNING COMMISSION
WHEREAS, the Town Board of the Town of Schodack has determined that it is in the best interest of the Town to achieve a unified sense of community for the Town as a whole; and
WHEREAS, the Town has experienced a significant increase of interest in possible development in the last two years; and
WHEREAS, most of the construction of new homes and businesses in the Town has been pursued in segments which have no intentional relationship with surrounding development; and
WHEREAS, it appears probable that the current pattern of unrelated development is likely to continue; and
WHEREAS, the current pattern of unrelated development may increase significantly the cost of providing municipal services to future residents of the Town and may render the efficient provision of services impossible; and
WHEREAS, it is the responsibility of the Town Board to attempt to assure that services can be provided to Town residents at a reasonable cost and that the quality of life in the Town is, as far as possible, enhanced by action of Town government; and
WHEREAS, recent public concern and involvement in the issues of growth and development within the Town have demonstrated that there exists a sizable body of expertise and interest that can be tapped to assist in the development of truly far-sighted plans for the Town as a whole; and
WHEREAS, the members of the Town Planning Board have repeatedly shown concern over the difficulty involved in assuring that new construction is compatible with both environmental limitations and the future characteristics beneficial to the general public interests of the Town; and
WHEREAS, the only way to assure that the Town develops in a way that assures the unification of the Town into a cohesive community which can economically provide services to its residents and can maintain a high quality of life and an aesthetically desirable and safe environment is to establish a new comprehensive townwide plan of sufficient detail to address the foregoing issues;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Town Board hereby creates an ad-hoc townwide comprehensive planning commission (the "Commission") to consist of eleven members, to be appointed by the Town Board. At least four of the members shall be members of the Town Planning Board, at least two shall have experience or training in construction, architecture or engineering, at least one shall be actively involved in agribusiness and at least one shall have demonstrated training or experience in some area of environmental protection; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Commission shall as its first order of business elect a chairperson, and may designate such other officers as from time to time it deems necessary; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Commission shall as its second order of business undertake immediately to locate sources of funding from outside of the Town upon which the Town Board may be able to draw for funding of the first year of the Commission's operation; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Commission shall during its first year of operation perform such research, study, investigation, discussion, hearings and other activities as may be necessary to develop recommendations for a general plan for the entire Town which shall determine the basic character and utility of the several areas of the Town, and which shall be the basis for the more detailed subsequent planning; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Commission shall during the first year undertake to locate as many potential sources of funds for the continuation of the planning process as may be feasible, in order to avoid so far as possible placing the extraordinary cost of the plan on the taxpayers of the Town; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Commission shall at the conclusion of its first year of operation hold at least two hearings, and as many additional hearings as it deems necessary, to solicit advice from the citizens of the Town, and other interested parties, on the results of its first year of work and shall incorporate so far as possible the results of these hearings in its recommendations to the Town Board for a conceptual plan for the Town; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Commission shall report its recommendations for a conceptual plan following the hearings at the close of the first year of operation to the Town Board and Planning Board; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that, after the Town Board adopts a conceptual plan, the Commission shall during its second year of operation develop pursuant to the conceptual plan adopted by the Town Board its recommendations for a complete and detailed plan for the future of the Town, which shall describe the location of all transportation including but not limited to streets, sewer, water, electric, park, educational, safety, cultural, recreational and other such facilities which shall be needed to supply the citizens of the Town in the way calculated to be necessary to achieve the character and environment set forth upon in the conceptual plan; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Commission shall provide the Town Board and Planning Board with brief reports of the status of its efforts after each three months of operation; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Commission shall provide the Town Board with an estimate of the cost of the second year of its operations not later than September 15, 1990, along with any proposed sources of funding for these costs; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that at the end of the second year of its operation the Commission shall hold at least two hearings, and as many additional hearings as it deems necessary, to advise the citizens of the Town of the results of its efforts and to solicit from the citizens, and others, such information, opinion and advice as may be forthcoming and to incorporate into its recommendations for a final plan as much of the results of the hearings as may be feasible, and to-submit its recommendations for a final proposed comprehensive Town plan to the Town Board within two months after the final such hearing; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the Commission shall, at any time that it determines that there is a significant possibility of being unable to meet any of the provisions of this resolution, immediately so advise the Town Board and at the same time recommend to the Town Board those modifications to this resolution that it deems necessary so as to make possible the successful conclusion of the comprehensive planning process envisioned in this resolution.
STRATEGIC PLAN RECOMMENDATIONS
SCHODACK LONG TERM PLANNING COMMISSION
The Schodack Long Term Planning commission has completed assessing Schodack's future Master Planning needs and will make its strategic plan report to the Town Board on Thursday, March 24th at 7pm at Town Hall.
During the 3 year study, the Commission retained the services of consulting planners, Bagdon Associates of Delmar, and Kenneth A. Gifford, Landscape Architect and Planner of North Greenbush. The Strategic Plan prepared by Gifford was adopted by the Commission and recommends the following:
-Based upon comprehensive mapping of natural and cultural resources of the Town, an open space system would be created. Land Trusts and term easements would be used to preserve an open space system would be centered around streams, wetlands, steep hills, and other ecologically sensitive areas;
-The Schodack Landing/Muitzeskill area of the Town would have special overlay zoning created to preserve the special character of historic homesteads. Based on public input and successful use of this technique, other Hamlet areas of the Town including East Schodack and Clark's Chapel Road would also be recommended for overlay zoning to encourage special design standards;
-The preservation of the Town's remaining farms and open spaces is best achieved by focusing development in areas that can be provided with cost effective infrastructure, utilizing existing public resources such as schools, firehouses, etc., that will maximize the generation of local and school tax revenues;
-In order to achieve maximum protection of farmland and open space, development will be focused in the Maple Hill Corridor and on Route 9. This plan is meant to protect the environment by focusing development in sewered areas and to encourage business growth along Route 9 in order to build a strong tax base to support our local school system. The plan uses neo-traditional village architecture and land planning techniques reminiscent of New England towns. The Town Planning Board will work directly with the Maple Hill Road neighborhood to create the plan insuring adequate buffers for the existing residents.
SCHODACK LONG TERM PLANNING COMMISSION
STRATEGIC PLAN PREPARED FOR
SCHODACK TOWN BOARD
SCHODACK PLANNING BOARD
KENNETH A GIFFORD, ASLA
260 WEST SAND LAKE ROAD
RENSSELAER, NEW YORK 12144
SCHODACK LONG TERM PLANNING COMMISSION
STRATEGIC PLAN PREPARED FOR SCHODACK TOWN BOARD AND
SCHODACK PLANNING BOARD
In the summer of 1993, Kenneth A Gifford, Landscape Architect and Planner, was retained by the Town of Schodack to continue the consulting planning activities he began as a co-consultant with Bagdon Associates for the Schodack Long Term Planning Commission. The work begun by the Long Term Planning Commission is finalized during this phase of work into a strategic plan and recommendation for the Schodack Town Board and Planning Board.
The first phase of the work with Bagdon and Gifford included extensive mapping of the Town's natural and cultural resources, and a review of open space preservation techniques, particularly focusing on agricultural lands. The final portion of the Phase I work included alternative development scenarios using various strategic planning assumptions and levels of planning sophistication and codes, to a changes from existing regulations. As Board Members may recall, in its interim report to the Town Board in the Spring of 1993, the Commission presented the following four main alternatives for the completion of a long term plan for Schodack. These alternatives were; 1. existing regulations, 2. agricultural zoning techniques, 3. "high-tech" development controls, 4. neo-traditional zoning. At that time the Town Board accepted these ideas and instructed the Commission to proceed with the development of a long term plan for Schodack. The Commission then proceeded to engage Ken Gifford to assist preparing a final strategic plan for the Town Board.
This effort prepared a composite map using an overlay method from the original natural and cultural resource mapping, to produce an analysis of town wide developmental and open space preservation potential. The work in this phase also builds on the assumptions developed in the first phase as follows:
PRINCIPLES ON WHICH WE ARE OPERATING:
1. Agricultural areas, aquifer areas, areas of historic importance and the entire eastern part of the Town of Schodack would benefit from focusing development in a narrower corridor with sewer and water, relieving growth pressures on open space resources;
2. In a workshop session held with major farmers in the Town of Schodack, it was determined that agricultural zoning, as found commonly in the Midwest, was not desired because of the unknown profitability of farming for the long term. Generally while many farmers were committed to current operations, they were unsure about the desires or plans of future generations to farm and felt it would not be in their interest to reserve their farms long term for non development purposes;
3. In lieu of agricultural zoning, it was felt that infrastructure such as sewers, roads improvements, etc., should be kept away from active agricultural areas to forestall development for as long a period as possible;
4. Land trusts, term easements and other open space preservation techniques would be studied in the current phase of work to determine how to best distribute these resources;
S. The Schodack School District was the most likely area to receive residential growth because of the sewer expansion costs and territory, in that the strategies outlined in #1-5 above would be used to create a mix of residential and non residential activities to balance tax revenues necessary for school expansion;
6. Phases II and III of sewer expansion should attempt to reach Route 9 to include nonresidential development parcels as soon as possible to produce tax base necessary to support the Schodack School District;
7. At the level of Town funds available for planning and engineering it was determined that sophisticated planning tools such as transfer of development rights or sliding scale zoning, would be expensive to implement and have limited success due to the slow nature of development, or interest in receiving development rights;
8. Sewer should be expanded from the Village of Castleton to service the Maple Hill Road corridor, as the first phase of the development plan. A second phase of sewer development should be expanded from the High School on Maple Hill Road to Route 9, and go south to approximately the area of the Clear View development.
Using a manual overlay technique, attributes such as steep slopes, wetland areas and streams, historic and cultural resources, agricultural areas, and developed areas were combined onto one composite map, (see attached composite map). This map began to produce patterns of buildable versus non-buildable lands. Non buildable areas included primarily those areas with steep slopes and/or streams and wetlands that would preclude development under current regulations. It was noted during this portion of the study that the Federal wetlands are not a currently mapped resource and indeed become mapped only as an applicant considers the development of his or her property. Later in the recommendations section of this report it is strongly recommended that the Town include in its subdivision and/or zoning approval process the mapping of Federal wetlands as required by Federal law as part of the review process. This will greatly enhance the ability to add mapping in the future to the existing base maps as prepared for the Planning Board.
One of the strongest patterns to emerge from this study was the inner-connectedness of wetlands and stream areas creating a possible linked open space system throughout the Town of Schodack. There is a further advantage in developing this pattern as the major open space system for the Town of Schodack in that it is one of the most important ecological areas for the sustainability of water quality, storm water management, wild life habitat and aquifer recharge.
Another prevalent mapping feature of the study revealed the importance of the Schodack Landing, Muitzeskill, East Schodack and Clark's Chapel area as historically sensitive areas. Indeed because of the historic sites within the Town each of these areas should receive special consideration in development and overlays to protect their special character. Specifically an overlay for the Muitzeskill and Schodack Landing area should be created on top of the existing zoning requiring further developmental steps and protection to ensure planning in this area preserving vital historic buildings and surrounding environs. This area is chosen first for two reasons. The Town of Schodack's Historic Commission has proposed a local historic district nomination for historic properties in this area. Second, sound management of the Town's financial as well as volunteer resource should be focused in one area at a time. Success in implementing protection for this first area will make it easier to add other historic hamlets in the future.
In addition to the Federal wetlands mapping requirement, new subdivisions should also be required to produce a more detailed site analysis similar to the maps provided on a town wide scale, at a scale not to exceed 1" = 200' to show topography at 51 contour intervals, soil conditions from USGS mapping resources, Federal wetlands and vegetative cover type. Adding these resources to the Town based map system helps provide more detailed analysis and review of the subdivision process to include in the open space plan.
In the formation of this strategic plan, many components of a traditional comprehensive master plan update where done. Very complete mapping of the Town's natural and cultural resources were done and analyzed. Public meetings and input was sought from a wide variety of user groups, and alternative planning tools/concepts explored in alternative Town-wide plan map exercises. However, this effort should not be perceived as a total Master Plan update. While most all problem areas, such as septic, aquifer protection, traffic, loss of open space, school district growth, etc. where examined by the Commission, it was realized that contemporary understanding of managing the Town's assets meant focusing resources on priority problems, and/or areas that would accomplish the following;
1. Deal with an existing problem, choosing the highest priority area, and focusing the very limited financial resources of the Town on demonstrating how that problem would be solved. In other words, rather than spreading resources so thin that little to nothing can be accomplished, pick an obtainable goal and make it happen,
2. Using as an example the scattered areas of the Town that have septic problems, extending sewers to all these areas is not only financially unfeasible, but would have a secondary impact of opening more areas to development. Therefore, use routing, design and engineering of sewer assets as a growth management tool, rather than a strict cost revenue type of project. Areas needing septic system relief, should be treated by new septic or natural wetland treatment systems, as funding becomes available.
3. Given the very difficult technical nature of preserving open space with land use controls, and the overwhelming priority of the Town to accomplish open space preservation, use new and existing infrastructure to focus where growth in the Town will occur, and incorporate the most contemporary local government management techniques to accomplish this goal,
4. The majority of the Town's local development controls, as determined by the planning consultants, are appropriate to the level of professional staff the Town can afford to retain. Increasing complexity of the land use controls would add a considerable burden to the tax payers by increasing professional staff to implement these controls. The strategic plan recommends focusing Town investment in the areas recommended herein, as the first phase of providing the Town with open space protection, while promoting quality growth in a matter the Commission feels appropriate.
OPEN SPACE PLAN
This strategic plan recommends an open space system throughout the Town of Schodack that is based on stream and wetland protection as a major public health and safety factor and consideration in preservation of these areas. Under new Federal laws all wetland areas must be set aside for storm water retention and habitat preservation purposes. Because they are directly linked to streams throughout the Town of Schodack, and are often adjacent to steep un-developable slopes, the wetland areas provide the ideal interconnecting open space system as a skeleton for the Town of Schodack.
Farm areas, and forested areas adjacent to these open space systems of wetlands and streams, can also become subjects of term easements or, outright land trust purchases for future preservation. The interconnectedness of this system begins to ensure that ultimately a public access system can be developed as a major town resource to make the benefits of public open space available to all. The use of term easements and other lands that may be acquired by the Schodack Land Trust should be encouraged to be part of the open space system, particularly when it preserves agricultural land and resources. In these cases, active farming of these properties would discourage recreational uses. Specific recommendations as to the minimum length of term, or minimum size of tract to be accepted as "Town of Schodack" open space should follow the Internal Revenue Service (IRS, a United States Department of Treasury agency), current guidelines for donation of said properties. Interpretation of these guidelines changes from time to time, and the Town should be prepared to follow the IRS rulings on these matters, rather than trying to determine its own standards that may conflict with Federal standards.
The public accessibility requirement is a key factor in understanding the criteria the Town should develop for acceptance of non agricultural open space areas in lieu of a recreation impact fee. The proper public access in terms of easements for pedestrians, public parking, dedication of upland areas adjacent to wetlands for development of trails, and further delineation of recreational areas such as picnic areas, biking paths, etc., should all be carefully constructed to create an incentive system. Public access requirements should be considered an addition on top of the mandatory Federal delineation of wetland areas to be dedicated to a public open space system. It should also be mentioned that wetland areas that are required by Federal law to be set aside, on properties not adjacent to the mapped open space system as presented with this report, are a Federal requirement and may not necessarily receive recreational benefits, in that they could be sold as part of a subdivided lot with a conservation easement placed on the lot for the wetland portion. Therefore because of the ability to transfer either in a fee simple or in a common area delineation the benefits of this open space to the owners of a subdivision, they do not contribute to the public open space that the Town should be desiring to seek.
In the historically sensitive areas and adjacent areas, an additional overlay should be applied to the existing zoning to assure that a village-like, or neo traditional type housing is developed for new construction in these areas utilizing existing lots sizes for the provision of on site wells and septic systems. What is sought in the overlay is to create setbacks, clustering, village like conditions, along with building design and landscape guidelines that augment the quality of existing historic structures and homesteads. The overlay would provide for site planning and architectural and landscape design reviews to ensure that placement and design of new structures and site amenities are consistent with the surrounding buildings and environments. Additionally scattered historic hamlets around the Town of Schodack, need to have overlays applied for specific parcels and surrounding parcels in terms of establishing the same kind of review and building guidelines for new construction as contained in the larger historic area districts.
NEO TRADITIONAL TOWN CENTER CONCEPT
As mentioned earlier in this report one of the conclusions reached by the Long Term Planning Commission during the first phase of study was that the clustering of development with the provision of public services such as sewer, water, trash collection, etc., in a village-like atmosphere would be a major step in the preservation of open space. While the average annual number of building permits for new single family homes over the past 5 years has been 64, it can be anticipated with additional infrastructure such as sewer, that the development pace would somewhat quicken within the Town. If alternatively designed units providing the feel of a more rural setting and village character, were available on the market place, they would tend to replace some of the market currently being absorbed by more traditional 40,000 square foot lot subdivisions and larger estate type development. It can be anticipated that some of this open space development will continue to occur, however, even if half of the number of units per year, or 32, continue in this tract it will be constitute (sic) very slow progression of losses of open space as compared to today's lack of any alternatives.
The reason the Village concept or "Town Center" with neo-traditional housing appears to be desirable to the Long Term Planning Commission is that it provides character of existing hamlet clusters found throughout the Town of Schodack. The amenities that would allow this kind of development to occur provides the market understanding of what is required to assure the commercial success of this kind of development. Neo traditional housing and town centered clusters require that goods and services be available, usually within walking distance or at a minimum a short drive, within an environment that concentrates on the scale of the street, pedestrian amenities, and landscape design that creates the traditional setbacks, front porches, mixed uses, and neighborliness of an earlier time.
In assessing the area for the placement of this concept several factors were considered including:
1. Geographical closeness and favorable topography to the Village of Castleton sewer plant;
2. Nearby schools, churches, and other amenities to serve the population of the development;
3. Either existing or probable future commercial goods and services to support the town like atmosphere of the area;
4. Proximity to a town wide open space system plan, and away from environmentally sensitive areas such as aquifer recharge portions of the Town;
5. Good access to regional transportation routes such as 1-90.
There is only one area that easily meets all these criterion, it is the Maple Hill Corridor portion of the Town of Schodack, (see attached map). With the proximity of the three Schodack Central Schools, and two churches in the immediate vicinity near the Village of Castleton, this is the most likely area for the first phase of expansion of the project. A large scale planning effort needs to be undertaken by the Schodack Planning Board to study both the sewer and physical layout of this district. It is recommended that the Town's Planning Consultant and Town Engineer work with the Town Planning Board to undertake a planning study directly with the neighborhood involvement to determine the feasibility of this proposal. Items of concern include, adequate buffers between existing housing and the proposed new village development, pedestrian connections to parks, churches, shops, etc. and existing development, land use locations to insure the least production of local traffic trips, etc. Indeed probably a special zoning overlay district would be created in this area, including a great deal more study regarding district edges, surrounding natural open space systems, and buffers between existing single family development and the new proposed area. It would be proposed that this type of area would absorb a density of 3 to 4 1/2 units per acre with the provision to create small offices providing services, parcels for small scale commercial developments, and other design amenities that may include parks, plazas, squares or other common area designs.
It is important to understand that the Phase I sewer expansion in this area has to be very carefully structured so as to protect agricultural areas from these services. Sewers along Maple Hill Road, with a very serious curtailment of expansion along Route 150 should be considered. The first phase of the sewer expansion should probably connect the Schodack High School and Maple Park II development. It is important to understand that the cost benefit of this sewer is much more important than the cost revenue aspect associated with most sewer studies. In other words, if it takes longer for this sewer to pay for itself its benefit can be directly measured by the ability to focus development along the Maple Hill Road to reach the Route 9 corridor in Phases 2 or 3 to service future nonresidential development for tax base purposes. When the first phase of the sewer system is financially absorbed, the next phase should continue to run sewers along Maple Hill Road to the Route 9 corridor, and go South to the Clear View subdivision.
Another cost benefit of this approach is in the lack of encouragement to high cost inefficient single family housing spreading in the remaining portions of the Town. Cost for services to these spread out areas including school busing, waste collection, new subdivision roads to plow, etc., need to be included in the equations to assess the cost benefit of new sewer expansion. It should be noted that the neo-traditional town center concept, typically produces less school age children and lower population of 2.1 to 2.3 persons per unit versus 2.74 people per unit in the current Schodack demographic. However, it is noted earlier, the school age children that will accompany such projects will have a direct impact on the Schodack school district. Therefore it is important in the phasing and mapping of this town center concept that the ability to get sewer and water services to Route 9 to begin servicing a larger tax base is an important part of this planning effort.
RECOMMENDED STRATEGIC PLAN
The following summarizes the strategic planning recommendations to the Town of Schodack Planning Board and Town Board from the Long Term Planning Commission. It is recommended that each political body formally adopt these goals;
1. Using the open space planning map accompanying this report, create a town wide open space plan map, overlaid on aerial photography with tax map parcels shown. With this open space planning, create the criteria for the acceptance and dedication of open spaces by developers and the credit for recreational impact fees contained therein;
2. In the open space plan, create policies, acceptance procedures, insurance requirements, and other amenity planning criteria such as trails, parking and use areas to be accepted with developer dedications for additional impact, be it abatement or density bonuses;
3. Working with land trusts and term easements should be an accepted part of the open space planning procedure, and criteria should be acceptance of all agricultural lands for non recreational use, and all adjacent lands to the Town's mapped open space system for recreational use. Furthermore, the Town should recognize IRS rulings on donation of lands as the Town standard(s) to avoid conflicting with Federal regulations;
4. Work with the existing Maple Hill area residents to create a town center planning district with neo-traditional housing and non residential uses created in a scale sufficient to be able to generate design concepts, design guidelines, and district area boundaries with buffers the neighborhood considers appropriate;
S. Concurrently with the development of the town center concept, begin the detailed study of sewer and water engineering requirements along with cost analysis to service this district, limit expansion of the first phase to the Maple Hill road corridor to about the Maple Hill High School area;
6. Revise Schodack's current subdivision regulations to include wetland mapping, other open space preservation criteria and make it a part of each subdivision approval process;
7. Include Federal wetland mapping as a requirement in all zoning and subdivision approvals;
8. Create an overlay district on top of existing zoning for historic areas and sites.
This report concludes the Long Term Planning Commission Strategic Recommendations and Scope of Work assigned by the Town Board. The next steps need to be undertaken by the Schodack Town Planning Board, along with submittal of a detailed budget and proposal for creating several of the work steps outlined above. We hope that the information will be useful to the Town Board and Planning Board and will receive immediate consideration for future funding to implement the suggestions herein.
Peter Goold, Chairman Long Term Planning Commission
Kenneth A. Gifford, ASLA, Consultant to Long Term Planning Commission