Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Rick Matters' Advertiser Article

When I ran for a seat on the town board back in 2007, I took exception to the condition of commercial property along Columbia Turnpike. As we know, it has not lived up to its potential over the last fifteen years or so due, in no small part, to the shift in developer-interest to the Troy Road commercial strip north of  Couse Corners. I was and remain adamant about the town board taking meaningful, proactive action that would improve the appearance of commercial property in town. The good news is that East Greenbush still remains poised to realize its full potential. Indeed, all that is necessary to put a new face on East Greenbush is a spark to create the initial conditions that will lead to newly developed property as well as the redevelopment of existing property.

Last fall, I proposed to my town-board colleagues an opportunity that, if acted upon, would markedly improve the aesthetic quality of existing and newly developed commercial property in East Greenbush:the establishment of design standards and guidelines for commercial property as part of the town’s zoning law. Such standards and guidelines would address the architecture and configuration of buildings, their orientation on a site relative to street frontage, as well as site-related features such as pedestrian access, parking, signage, and landscaping (keep the “green” in Greenbush). Setting “standards” would ensure that the town would realize a minimum level of visual uniformity to new or rehabilitated
development, while “guidelines” would provide appropriate flexibility to developers so that commercial properties achieve varying degrees of distinction and uniqueness.  

 We’ve all driven around the capital region, and noticed the appeal of other commercial corridors in contrast to those in our own town. A large factor contributing to this contrast is that those communities have taken the steps to establish design standards and guidelines for commercial-property development. Such standards and guidelines have benefitted those communities, and they can benefit ours as well. It’s not that developers aren’t concerned about creating quality development; it simply means that municipalities have to take the lead in establishing a blue print for such development so that developers have direction. 

As a reward to owners of commercial property who would be subject to such standards and guidelines, it may be possible to provide for a limited tax exemption to partially offset their higher compliance costs. Doing so would create a win -win condition for residents and commercial property owners alike: residents enjoy enhanced storefronts in their town, while developers realize a fair incentive to invest in the town. In addition, once such standards take hold among properties in the town, the cumulative effect becomes an asset within the town, drawing still other developers to develop other property based upon the investment of prior developers.  Again, you can see this effect in other commercial areas in the capital region; East Greenbush can be among them as well.

Now, more than ever, is the time to set the stage for a new face on East Greenbush. In the near future, it is likely that many of the physically and functionally obsolete commercial properties along Columbia Turnpike will be overhauled by their owners. When it does occur, East Greenbush can reap all the benefits by simply planning its direction.  Let’s make it happen!

 As always, feel free to contact me with comments and/or questions. I can be reached during the evening at 479-7186 or via e-mail at rkmjr@verizon.net.