GLENS FALLS — The city has reached a tentative agreement with developer Chris Patten that will see a commercially zoned parcel at the corner of Glen and Bay streets preserved as green space and a new apartment building constructed along Union Street.
Patten, the Queensbury-based developer who for months has been seeking to construct an apartment complex on the parcel located in the heart of downtown, said the deal has yet to be finalized, but added a “verbal agreement” has been reached that will see him relinquish the property to the city.
In exchange, Patten will receive a letter from the city that will address several zoning ordinances that would need to be cleared in order for him to construct an 18- to 20-unit apartment complex along Union Street, directly behind 425 Glen St., which is home to 32Fit Gym and Heritage Apartments.
The Union Street property is owned by 333 Glen Street Associates, the same company that Patten has a contract with to purchase the downtown green space.
The 23,000-square-foot parcel on Union Street is currently a parking lot, but was subdivided in 2017 for future development.
Patten declined to say what zoning ordinances the letter would address, but noted terms of the agreement were reached April 26 during a meeting between himself and city officials, including Mayor Dan Hall.
“Once that letter is received, my intention will be to allow the city to go through and purchase the property, and back away from it,” he said, referring to the parcel at Glen and Bay streets.
Patten said he still has a contract to purchase the undeveloped property at Glen and Bay streets and would continue his efforts to develop the parcel if his terms are not met.
“If they don’t follow through, then I fully intend to purchase the property and we’re going to go right back in front of the Planning Board,” he said.
Hall, on Tuesday, said he is “hopeful” that a final agreement can be reached, but declined to discuss any further details.
“We’re working with the developer and owner of the property, and I think we’ve come to some kind of a solution that will be best for both parties,” he said.
Patten’s plans to develop the downtown parcel, which sits next to the historic Episcopal Church of the Messiah, directly across the street from City Park, have sharply divided some residents, with many arguing the property should be acquired by the city and preserved as a park.
Others have said the proposed project would help reduce the city’s tax burden, address the growing demand for downtown apartments and provide a boost for local businesses.
Patten and the city have been locked in a stalemate over the future of the property since August, when the developer first presented plans to build a five-story, 64-unit apartment complex on the parcel.
The building would have mirrored the footprint of the former Glens Falls Insurance Co. building, which stood at the site until it was razed in 1976.
But those plans, which were never formally submitted for review, would have required the city to alter its zoning laws and failed to gain support from the Common Council.
The city has since expressed interest in preserving the property as green space, and officials repeatedly declined to rule out seizing the property through eminent domain.
Patten spent thousands on altering his plans in the hopes of gaining Planning Board approval, but has had little luck. At one point, he offered to donate nearly half the property to the city so the land could be preserved as a park.
His latest proposal, which was tabled by the Planning Board last month amid a debate over a density ordinance, calls for a four-story building with 21 single-bedroom units and enough parking to accommodate 32 vehicles.
Patten said there is still a need for downtown apartments, but said he felt like he was fighting a losing battle with city officials, who he has accused of working against him.
He added that he believes city officials will come to regret their decision to block his original 64-unit proposal, which he believes would have been a “mega success.”
Paying to remove a commercially zoned property from the tax rolls makes no sense, Patten said.
“The city spending money to buy a parcel to remove it from their tax rolls only to build it into a park and have to maintain it? I mean they’re adding to the tax burden,” he said. “It’s completely opposite of downtown development and investment. It goes against all that they preach and what they want.”
Chad Arnold is a reporter for The Post-Star covering the city of Glens Falls and the town and village of Lake George and Washington County government. Follow him on Twitter @ChadGArnold.