The Albany Planning Commission has given its approval to a project by the Scott Lepman Company to build eight three-story townhomes in the 200 block of S.E. Third Avenue. A big old walnut tree in the corner of the site will have to come down, the commission agreed.
Earlier, the commission had turned down the project based partly on the tree. But then it developed that felling or not felling trees is not among the relevant standards for judging this type of application. So the commission scheduled a redo, which took place Monday.
Relevant or not, the developer provided testimony that saving the tree would take the space of two or three of the proposed units. Further, while it’s about 65 years old with a diameter at chest height of 29 inches, the tree is not particularly historic, overhangs the neighboring historic church and might damage it, and an arborist recommended that it be “removed to prevent future problems.”
Lepman, speaking to the commission’s virtual meeting from Philadelphia (he didn’t explain what he was doing there), offered to plant and maintain trees on both Third Avenue and Montgomery Street to make up for the loss of the walnut.
The commission took him up on the offer and conditioned the approval on the Lepman Company planting one tree on Third and three on Montgomery. Then it approved the application 7-0.
Camron Settlemier, an Albany resident and advocate for historic preservation, had argued that felling the walnut would violate various policies in the Albany comprehensive plan. But planning manager Scott Whyte said comprehensive plan policies don’t apply to this kind of application.
The site is at 224 and 234 Third Ave. S.E., between the Lepman-owned Wood Apartments and the former church belonging to the CHANCE non-profit.
The planned single-family townhouses, individually owned units with common walls, will each measure about 1,800 square feet, with two bedrooms on the third floor; a kitchen, laundry, living and dining area on the second, and a single-car garage and bonus room on the ground floor. Each will have a patio. (The applicant’s description didn’t mention bathrooms, but presumably there will be some.)
Four of the units will face Third Avenue; the other four an alley on the back. The complex is to be called Montgomery Place.
Albany architect Don Johnson, who designed them, wrote: “The buildings will last for centuries and ultimately become another part of the historical framework of the city.”
When will the construction start? No one said anything about that. (hh)