Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Preservationists' celebration called premature

Demise of parking lot plan cheered, but Fort Orange Club says options open

By TIM O'BRIEN, Staff writer
First published: Tuesday, September 23, 2008

ALBANY -- The Fort Orange Club is no longer seeking permission to build a parking lot where two prominent buildings now stand.

While some opponents of demolishing 118-120 Washington Ave. are hailing it as a decision not to remove the two buildings near the state Capitol, the president of the club's board said that view is "premature."

The club has filed a revamped request to the Zoning Board of Appeals, which meets at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. It is deleting a request to build a parking lot and to place a stone fence where the buildings now stand. The application still seeks to add a 2,350-square-foot addition to expand its health club.

Roger Bearden, president of the Hudson/Park Neighborhood Association, sent out an e-mail Monday to his membership hailing the move. "Your hard work has helped preserve this city's streetscape," he wrote.

Daniel J. Hogarty, president of the club's board, called Bearden's announcement "premature" but said there are ongoing discussions about the project. He declined to be more specific.
City officials could not be reached for comment after hours Monday.

Bearden said he received a revised agenda for the zoning board meeting, and he noted the change to the club's application.

Uncertain what that meant, Bearden said he called Brad Glass of the city's planning office, who works on zoning issues. Glass informed him that the plans for the parking lot were off the table, Bearden said.

Glass could not be reached for comment Monday evening.

"We're extremely pleased by what we see as the Fort Orange Club's having really listened to the concerns of the neighbors," Bearden said. "We think this is wonderful news."

But Hogarty said he could not confirm that the demolition plan had changed.

"We're actually quite a bit right in the middle of these discussions," he said. "Your question is a bit premature."

Richard Conti, the council's president pro tempore, said he too noted the agenda change and asked Glass if this meant the proposed parking lot was off the agenda. In an e-mailed response, Glass simply wrote "correct."

"I think it's good news," said Conti, who represents the neighborhood. "It is definitely a step in the right direction, and I compliment the Fort Orange Club for moving in the right direction."

Tim O'Brien can be reached at 454-5092 or by e-mail at tobrien@timesunion.com.

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