Note: The following are informal notes based on information received during this public meeting.

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1 Town of Colonie, New York Housing and Neighborhoods Focus Group Meeting Notes October 7, 2004 The Crossings at Colonie T H E S A R A T O G A A S S O C I A T E S LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTS, ARCHITECTS, ENGINEERS, AND PLANNERS, P.C. Note: The following are informal notes based on information received during this public meeting. The Town of Colonie Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee (CPAC) sponsored a Housing and Neighborhoods Focus Group meeting on Thursday, October 7, The Focus Group is the next step in a series of public workshops in the development of the Town s comprehensive plan. Approximately twenty community members and Town officials attended the focus group meeting. The purpose of this meeting was to identify concerns and opportunities for housing and neighborhoods in Colonie. Input from this meeting, in addition to information gathered at previous public workshops, will form the basis of the goals included in the comprehensive plan. The Saratoga Associates provided a brief overview of the comprehensive planning process and described current conditions and trends. Workshop participants were then asked to participate in an icebreaker. Participants were asked to identify what is currently working regarding housing and neighborhoods and also to discuss what issues or concerns they have. The results of this preliminary exercise are recorded below. After a further presentation of ideas from elsewhere, and of some of the opportunities for Colonie, two groups were created to work with a facilitator in answering the following questions: 1. What do you like about the ideas that have been described? Why? 2. What concerns you about the ideas that have been described? Why? 3. What other opportunities do you see for housing and neighborhoods in the Town of Colonie? Results for the facilitated group discussions are also found below. 1

2 Icebreaker What is working in terms of the housing and neighborhoods? Taxes are affordable The 1/2 acre lots on the Westside are good o Neighborhoods exist that have maintained their unique identity There is a high demand for existing and new housing Good supportive services o Recreation o Senior services The cluster development concept (however, there are very few in town) Neighborhood conveniences and services Development seems to be more open in design (unlike Clifton Park where residential development seems to be more inwardly focused) Older neighborhoods (1980 & earlier) have a greater sense of community o More connections exist within and between neighborhoods Older neighborhoods o Neighbors take care of neighbors (seniors have more of a support system) o Senior and younger populations function/work together Public services working well Schools What is not working? What concerns do you have? Newer development is isolated o Results in increased traffic because there are no alternative routes o Bad for social connections (less sense of community) Concerned with pushing traffic into neighborhoods (thru traffic) o How does that impact neighborhood quality of life and safety Lack of sidewalks Blending new homes within existing neighborhoods (to prevent isolation) Lack of affordability o Low-moderate income o Economic impacts of no affordable housing Lack of affordable senior housing o Senior housing above the subsidized rate and below market rate is needed o Transition to maintenance free apartments Seniors having difficult time maintaining home due to the costs involved Housing options o Zoning changes? i.e. universal designed homes o Mixed incomes within neighborhoods Neighborhoods are strained as we approach build-out o Traffic o Noise o Commercial backing up to residential o Lighting spill into residential areas 2

3 Discussion Group 1 What do you like about the ideas described: The emphasis on affordability is important. This is a major issue: o For people who want to come into the town o For people who want to stay The idea to create redevelopment incentives in existing neighborhoods is good. The discussion about the design of newer subdivisions and how that can impact a neighborhood o Wide streets, deep setbacks (over 100 from house front to house front) a concern What concerns do you have: Reverse mortgages can be good for seniors but closing costs and effort are often disincentives. The process should be made easier. o Many seniors have paid off original mortgage fear of starting with this again. Plus they see their homes as an inheritance for their children The town s current regulations are quite restrictive in terms of in-law apartments. The zoning does not allow duplexes either There is a concern about neighborhood disinvestment and absentee landlords (in the future) The cost of development is skyrocketing o Streets, materials, etc. o Regulations make it hard to be creative no incentives for creativity Expanding community development programs is difficult. Money is getting more scarce from governmental funding sources, especially for rental assistance programs Lack of affordable rentals this is becoming a bigger problem because the cost of buying is so expensive, there is greater demand for rentals Growth of Town there is a concern about infrastructure and services. o Do developers contribute? o However, there is recognition that fees for developers raise costs for the consumer (less affordability) Transportation is a big issue for seniors Opportunities or suggestions for the future: Programs to keep people in the community rather than nursing homes more cost effective o But transportation and other issues make this difficult Promote more intergenerational housing change zoning to allow: o In-law apartments o Duplex (different sizes) perhaps with a unit for seniors Requiring affordable units in new development will be needed. This also has the benefit of not concentrating affordable units in specific neighborhoods. Co-housing examples in Saugerties and Ithaca Public spaces are valuable to neighborhoods o Community gardens, pocket parks, etc. Discussion of the sandwich generation those taking care of their own children and their aging parents as well 3

4 o Housing options should reflect this o Zoning, etc. should encourage housing options Discussion Group 2 What do you like about the ideas described: Local thoughts and challenges are consistent with national trends Low taxes (relative to surrounding communities) o Due in part to the balance of commercial and residential development Mixing commercial with residential development Services are close (neighborhood services) Proximity to parks o Neighborhood parks/pocket parks serve many Sidewalks critical in high traffic areas. However, may not be appropriate in low traffic areas as local streets are fine. Pathways between developments (pedestrian/bike primarily) Variety of housing already exists o Small to large homes o Older and newer homes Mix of ages within a neighborhood o Seniors and younger populations o A certain amount of this is natural turnover o How do we encourage intergenerational neighborhoods What concerns do you have: Maintain housing stock o Owner-occupied housing is important o intrusion (i.e Central Avenue) o How to encourage reinvestment in older housing stock? How to allow seniors to stay in their home? o Property maintenance (the financial and physical aspect of maintenance) o Creating a house that is accessible universal design Lack of thru traffic routes in new development Connections within new developments to existing neighborhoods (the last one in thought process) Sidewalk maintenance o Who? Town, county o Costs involved Rt. 155 sidewalks near Shaker school o Connect children to school & their neighborhood in a safe manner o Residents not supportive The typical cross-section design of sidewalks o There should be a buffer between the sidewalk & street i.e. a planting strip with Restrictive zoning (to allow for co-housing, etc.) Enforcement a concern o Maybe infill basis? 4

5 What happens when seniors are no longer in their home? o How to continue the trend of homeownership when seniors move to apartments o How to encourage young population into neighborhoods? Duplexes? Other more affordable options? For many seniors, their income does not support maintenance their house, but they can t afford to live elsewhere Opportunities or suggestions for the future: A diversified town o Markets exist to support a variety of housing options Development community is interested in getting guidance from the town for the developing the following o Mixed-use o Senior o Patio homes o Condos o Single family detached o Commercial/retail/office Not allowing density necessary to support If the economics don t work, the private sector won t be creative with housing Assist developers in finding land near services for new development Require mitigation fees to balance costs of services, such as senior services (or developer could provide services) o Create some way to assist the town in paying for costs of long-term services o How to continue services? (mitigation fees are a one-time only fee) What is an appropriate level of mixed use? o From an economic perspective, how much mixed use must occur to be economically viable? Clustering Balancing human services with infrastructure is important This is a diverse community that can be maintained if options exist for housing Opportunity to be very proactive The Town is idea-rich and open-minded Fort Orange Village (SUNY Albany) o Opportunities for demonstration project for intergenerational housing Public Comments Senior citizens survey o 22 housing issues identified. The survey was provided for the CPAC. 5

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