MOREAU — The Town Board put a stop to apartment development Tuesday, banning any new projects for at least six months.
During that time, the board will change the zoning code to permanently limit future multifamily housing. The goal is to “constrain” it to areas with water, sewer and roads that can handle higher population density, according to the ban.
In so doing, the board will “set the tone” for the town’s future, Supervisor Todd Kusnierz said.
He has heard regular complaints about the number of apartments in town.
“One of the things I’ve heard ... is that the town of Moreau has done its fair share in providing affordable multifamily housing,” he said.
The recently amended comprehensive plan prioritizes less density and more single-family houses instead of apartments, he noted.
The board voted unanimously to impose a six-month moratorium on any apartment development applications, which means that developers cannot begin the application process until the moratorium ends. Any developments that are already approved can continue.
Saratoga County planning officials supported the six-month ban, but suggested it might take the town a year to make the zoning changes it wants.
Board members decided to stick with six months, noting that they can extend it if necessary.
Only one developer objected to the proposal.
Bruce McFarlane urged the board to grant him an exemption because he had begun working on plans for two duplexes six weeks ago. He had not filed a building permit application yet, but he said Zoning Administrator Jim Martin told him two-family houses wouldn’t be part of the ban.
At a public hearing two weeks ago, Martin mouthed “you’ll be OK,” when the McFarlanes brought up the issue.
But the ban, as written, specifies that multifamily and two-family dwellings cannot be built.
McFarlane said it was a bait-and-switch.
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“We had the verbal OK,” he said. “We’ve spent thousands of dollars on contractors, surveyors, architect.”
Board members noted that the ban includes an appeal process. Any property owner with “extraordinary hardship” can apply to the Town Board for a variance. The owner would have to prove the hardship and that the proposed development would not have any adverse environmental impacts and would not be a “detriment to the public health, safety or welfare” of the residents of Moreau.
McFarlane was not reassured.
“I understand what you’re trying to do, but I think two families is going too far,” he said. “We’re not big business. We don’t want to build 200 apartments. We just want to build two duplexes.”
He asked the board to reimburse him for all of his expenses so far.
“It’s like every time you turn around here, you change the rules,” he said. “It’s just not fair.”
He and his wife planned to build the duplexes, retire, and live in one of them.
Supervisor Todd Kusnierz told him to apply for a variance.
Board member Alan Van Tassel agreed.
“We’ve got provisions built in to accommodate situations we weren’t aware of,” he said.
But after the meeting, the board members also noted that McFarlane has been cited for code violations many times. That could hurt his chances of getting a variance.
Board members said they could not say how they would decide until they see his plan.
“It depends on the merits of the project,” Kusnierz said.