Dorms exempted from Cobleskill zoning regs


By Patsy Nicosia

The Town of Cobleskill reluctantly granted a $12 million dorm project at SUNY Cobleskill "immunity" from its zoning and permitting regulations following a closed session Monday.
The 3-1 decision-Supervisor Tom Murray voted against the immunity and Councilman Alan Rubin was absent-means the town will forego $60,000 in zoning fees.
But it will allow the project-which had been under a stop-work order-to move forward.
"And it would have cost us $100,000 to fight," said Town Attorney Mike West.
At issue is a two-story, 158-bed townhouse-style dorm the college is building on the agricultural side of the campus, behind Curtiss Mott, through its not-for-profit Cobleskill Alumni Holdings LLC.
The college has maintained that because it's a SUNY project on SUNY land, it's subject to state regulations-but not the town's.
Acting President Debra Thatcher explained the project to Mr. Murray and councilmen Monday.
Though the discussion was mostly cordial, Mr. Murray reminded the SUNY representatives the town had issued a stop-work order on the project while the immunity issue was resolved-but they ignored it.
"You never did stop," Mr. Murray said. "Then, when funding became a problem, you came to us and we lifted it," he said, after the situation began making the college's bankers nervous.
Mr. Murray and councilmen stressed they welcomed the project-just not the way the college pursued it.
"We just have to make sure we're doing it the right way," Mr. Murray said.
The town is also worried about setting precedent and asked about the college's plans for the Porter Hall dorm on the opposite side of Route 7 that they plan to demolish once the townhouses are up.
Town zoning doesn't permit townhouses on the site and Mr. West told the SUNY representatives he'd like them to request that it be rezoned "so you can't say in the future that you didn't know you were supposed to come to us."
That didn't happen and he remains concerned about future projects.
"When they're done, there will still be 10-15 acres at the site for future development," he said. "We're the ones who caught this-they didn't come to us. We're just going to have to be a lot more observant."