Florida City Residents Against Business Park Urge City Council to Rethink Zoning Laws
CITY OF FLORIDA — Residents opposed to plans to rezone about 500 acres of farmland to allow for a business park in a Florida agricultural district are urging the City Council to rethink laws that could authorize the project.
Former Councilman Ron Phillips reminded City Council on Monday of his role in establishing Planned Unit Development (PUD) bylaws allowing parcels of land to be rezoned to allow for otherwise prohibited uses.
The regulations permitting the rezoning of 25 acres or more of contiguous land are intended to promote a diversity of land uses involving a unified plan consistent with the character of the city and in the interest and welfare of the public.
However, Ron Phillips said the city had not anticipated the potential scale of proposals, such as PUD’s application which is being reviewed by the Planning Board.
“I think we made a mistake. I think we didn’t realize how big this could get,” Ron Phillips said. “I want you to take a long look at it. “
Landowners Karen and Larry Francisco and Nadler Brothers Inc. of Ballston Spa submitted a PUD application to the city to rezone approximately 500 acres just south of Exit 27 of the Thruway from agriculture to industry and trade.
The land would then be used for the construction of a retail park either side of Route 30 along Thruview Drive and Belldons Road. Initial concept plans call for three warehouse-style buildings covering 300,000 to 2 million square feet. A full site plan subject to Planning Board approval will not be drafted until the PUD application has been approved.
The Planning Board has been reviewing the PUD’s request since July to issue a recommendation on the proposal to city officials. The final decision to approve or deny the PUD will be made by the City Council.
At a public hearing on the Nadler and Francisco PUD conducted by the Planning Council in July, about two dozen residents spoke out against the proposal, raising concerns about loss of farmland, impacts on the rural landscape , infrastructure constraints, pollution potential, lack of community benefits and associated traffic in an already congested area.
Protect Our Farmland, a local grassroots group opposed to farmland rezoning, earlier this month presented a petition to the Planning Council signed by 188 residents against the proposed PUD. The petition called the project an undesirable development and irresponsible rezoning that is not in the best interest of the city’s farmland.
Several residents urged City Council to change or remove PUD regulations altogether to prevent the rezoning of land for projects widely opposed by residents that would normally be prohibited by zoning laws during the public comment portion of Monday’s meeting.
Residents are “appalled” by the proposed rezoning of farmland for a business park, according to Kristeen Jaracz, who expressed general opposition to allowing PUDs to be established in the city. She wondered if city officials would follow the wishes of the residents who elected them to reject the proposed PUD and others like it.
“We don’t want this draft in the city of Florida, what does it take to become ‘no’ in your mind,” Jaracz said. “I wonder in the future how they can be taken off the table.”
Elma Phillips reminded the city council that officials already debated whether the process was one-time zoning when the PUD bylaws were first passed. She suggested that the laws be overturned.
“I would like this removed and whatever you need to do to get rid of it,” Elma Phillips said.
Ben Schultz, a city resident and City of Amsterdam employee, questioned claims by a PUD enforcement representative that talks with city engineers about extending the pipelines sewer and water in the city to support the proposed business park are underway. System upgrades to provide the necessary capability levels would likely be required.
” I live in town. I don’t want to pay for it,” Schultz said.
Earlier this month, City Engineer Mike Clark said there had been general conversations over the years about the feasibility of expanding city utilities in Florida to support development projects, but nothing recently.
Mick Mullins of Mullins Realty, representing the Franciscos and Nadlers, said he had met with a third-party engineer familiar with Amsterdam’s sewer and water infrastructure to discuss the concept plan.
Beyond the issues with the proposed business park, Schultz suggested the city council should reconsider its PUD regulations.
“I agree with Ron. Hope you consider it carefully,” Schultz said.
Responding to criticism from residents, Mullins said the business park proposal followed city PUD regulations allowing land to be rezoned for development under certain conditions. He noted that the regulations do not cap the amount of land affected.
“It’s the law of the city to provide a roadmap, as many cities do, for this type of project,” Mullins said. “It’s meant to be flexible, open and transparent, so we follow that and adhere to that process.”
As opponents urge the city to deny the farmland preservation request, Mullins suggested that a denial could result in properties and other surrounding farmland being used for large-scale solar pending approval from the state overriding the exam and local regulations. .
“The alternative to this project, which may be considered something someone else may not like, would be the prospect of solar energy,” Mullins said. “Again, not something we want to do, but an alternative.”
The city is already experiencing the state’s settlement process after the 90-megawatt High River Energy solar project that will span more than 500 acres was approved last year over objections from local leaders and residents.
Owner Larry Francisco has dismissed objections raised by community members to his plans for his land registration documents he received from the city planning board.
“Landowners have the right to do what they want with their land and offer it up for development if they choose,” said Larry Francisco.
City Council did not respond to residents’ concerns at the meeting, and City Supervisor Eric Mead did not immediately return a call seeking comment on Tuesday.
Although he does not support the total repeal of PUD bylaws at this point, Councilman Matthew Gogis on Tuesday endorsed residents’ claims that council should reevaluate the law and consider adding some limitations.
“Everyone has the right to use their land as they see fit and take whatever options are available to them, but I really think the city needs to think deeply about the ramifications of this type of construction and also what other options some people have. people can consider,” Gogis said.
Acknowledging that the laws authorizing the establishment of rezoned districts were intended to support growth, Gogis questioned whether their actual application matched the rural town’s long-term plans. He added that addressing residents’ concerns about the proposed business park will be key when the application reaches the city council.
“Their opinions need to be taken into account because everyone would be affected by this in some way,” Gogis said.
The Planning Board is expected to issue its recommendation on Francisco and Nadler’s PUD at the next meeting on September 12. The application would then be returned to City Council for consideration subject to a second public hearing.
Contact Ashley Onyon at [email protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.