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Letter To All Brookside Museum Members:

September 24, 2010

Dear Brookside Member:

I'm writing today to make you aware of an issue that is affecting your Museum and will have a far-reaching, negative impact on it.

Brookside's neighbors, Frank & Marie Rossi, have submitted a proposal to the Village of Ballston Spa to develop their land, which borders Brookside's. The proposal calls for the construction of six apartment buildings to be located on Rossi's property, which runs along Fairground Avenue and is adjacent to the museum's back yard.

In order to construct these units, the Rossi's will have to remove approximately 40 feet of Mohican Hill. The closest apartment building will be nearly 50 feet from the museum building.

This is important to Brookside officials and you as members of Brookside for the following reasons:

1. The environmental impact of this development is cause for concern. The Museum already suffers from drainage issues due to prior construction in the area.
2. Mohican Hill, which has historical significance to Ballston Spa and the community, will be destroyed.
3. The programs Brookside offers, including education programs and fundraising events, will be compromised as a result of residential buildings so close to museum property.

As a member of the museum, you have a right to know about this development. This will have a negative impact on the Museum immediately and will also have long-lasting impact on its future.

We will continue to update you on this process (via email and Facebook). In the meantime, please check out these articles about the issue.

1. The Saratogian, 9/15/10:

2. The Ballston Journal, 9/20/10:

The Village of Ballston Spa will be considering a zoning amendment for this proposal on Monday, September 27, at 7:00 p.m. Members who are concerned about this development should plan to attend this meeting to express any concerns or questions you may have.

Thank you,

Joy C. Houle, Executive Director
Brookside Museum/ Saratoga County Historical Society
6 Charlton Street
Ballston Spa, NY 12020


PDF file for proposed site plan, which includes taking off about 40 feet of historic Mohican Hill


Ballston Spa Planning Board to review proposed 48-unit expansion of Mohican Hill senior housing complex

BALLSTON SPA — Plans are in the works to expand Mohican Hill, a senior apartment complex named in honor of author James Fenimore Cooper, who is said to have worked on “Last of the Mohicans” when he lived nearby.

Another six buildings with an additional 48 units will be added to the 10 Colonial-style buildings with 80 apartments off Fairground Avenue if the village grants owner Frank Rossi a zoning change.

The village Planning Board will review the Mohican Hill expansion at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 11. Planners will make a recommendation to the Village Board, which will hold a public hearing on the project at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 23, at the village office.

In 1996, the board approved a change of zoning from Residential-1 to Residential-2 Senior with the understanding that the 80 apartments would be restricted to those ages 55 and older and visitors would be limited to a maximum of 72 hours, Mayor John Romano said.

“The property is beautifully well-maintained. They’re meticulously well-kept,” Romano said. “Eighty-plus people close to downtown, with sidewalks. It’s been a plus to the community.”

The expansion will bring in about $18,000 to $19,000 a year in additional property tax revenues to the village, not counting town and county taxes, with no impact on the school district, Romano said.

“There is a need for affordable senior housing,” he said. “Seniors paved the way for our success. What better way to show our appreciation and gratitude than to be able to give them the opportunity to live in the village at an affordable price.”

Village trustees will have the final say on whether the apartment complex can expand down Fairground Avenue hill on the 10-plus acre site. If approved, Mohican Hill will be even closer to the Brookside Museum, the former Aldridge House where Cooper stayed before “Last of the Mohicans” was published in 1826.

“He boarded there for a while,” village historian Chris Morley said. “James Fenimore Cooper carved his initials with a diamond ring on a small window pane.”

The inn was larger in those days. “Half of the hotel is across the street,” Morley said. “They sawed the ballroom and the upper section off.”

Morley said he received some criticism for supporting Rossi’s project back in 1996, when the Saratoga County Fair board, which is a not-for-profit, also was interested in the parcel.

“I helped fight for him. The fairground wanted it, and they’re tax free. They wanted to make a parking lot,” he said.

Morley wanted the land to generate taxes instead. The village received about $10,000 a year in tax revenues, plus sewer and water fees, for the 10 buildings, he said.


Housing versus history at Ballston Spa public hearing


BALLSTON SPA — The Mohican Hill senior apartments are named after the book “Last of the Mohicans,” whose author, James Fenimore Cooper, resided at what is now the Brookside Museum. Officials at the museum are now fighting the proposed expansion of the complex, which they claim threatens their historic setting.

It was standing room only at Monday night’s public hearing on Frank Rossi’s proposal to add 48 more apartments to his 80-unit, colonial-style complex on Fairground Avenue. The Village Board approved a zoning change in 1996 that allowed Rossi to build the complex, with the restriction that it be limited to those age 55 and older. Rossi now needs the board’s approval to expand.

After hearing concerns and a new request from museum officials for a land swap, Mayor John Romano said the board will reserve a decision until its next meeting, on Sept. 27.

“We don’t have the authority to require a land swap,” village attorney Rich Kupferman said. “If it’s mutual, that’s between you and Rossi.”

Brookside is on the National Register of Historic Places and has 14,000 visitors each year, said Executive Director Joy Houle, who read excerpts of a letter from the trustees, many of whom were present. Seniors from Mohican Hill also attended.

“The construction of four to six apartment units on the hill immediately behind the museum ... could reduce the height of the hill behind Brookside by up to 40 vertical feet in areas and forever alter the setting in which Brookside has resided for over 200 years,” Houle said.

Museum officials asked the village to encourage Rossi to consider a land-swap with Brookside, so the four buildings proposed immediately west of the museum are constructed on the current Brookside parcel to the south and accessed from the other side of Charlton Street. In exchange, the piece of land directly behind the museum would remain undeveloped, preserving the historic appeal of Brookside and Ballston Spa and giving the museum direct access to Foote’s Pond, which the museum also owns.

The historic pond is located between Charlton Street and Route 67. The 2.3-acre parcel would be swapped in exchange for the piece behind the museum “to preserve the visual appeal,” Houle said.

Architect Arik Mathison, vice president of the Brookside board, spoke in favor of the land swap. With the proposed design, “that postcard, that view, the most historic site in this village will change forever,” he warned.

“We’re not opposing development,” said Jeanne Obermayer, president of the Brookside board. “Changing the backdrop will make a huge difference.”

In July, when the expansion was first proposed, Romano said it would bring in about $18,000 to $19,000 a year in additional property tax revenues to the village, not counting town and county taxes, with no impact on the school district. The apartments are “meticulously well-kept” and the seniors who can walk downtown are a benefit to the community, he added.

Rossi made that point while leaving Monday night’s meeting. “This village, just like any city and town, is in dire need of money,” he said. About 80 residents, all seniors, live in the current 48 apartments, and about 60 more people will live in the ones to be built.

“What we’re adding is a really good project,” Rossi said. “These are all really good people, retired people.” The rents will be $650 to $695 for 900 square feet of space.

He dismissed the proposed land swap. “It wouldn’t work. I don’t want any trails over to the pond. It will end up with kids drinking beer and raising hell — a big beer party,” Rossi said.

“We have the right to cut down all the trees and take out the dirt,” he continued. But he guaranteed that “screening will be added for my tenants not to see the museum,” as the back of the museum is a “disgrace."

Rossi’s attorney, James Craig, said they have revised their plan by flipping the parking lot and moving the buildings away from Brookside, and adding more trees as a buffer to minimize visual impact.

A builder since 1973, Rossi built about 60 homes in Liberty Hills, built and sold the Tannery Row Apartments, and is involved a project behind McDonald’s in Ballston.

James Fenimore Cooper, one of Brookside’s most famous residents, lived at Aldridge House, as it was then known, before publishing his “Last of the Mohicans” in 1826.

 Editorial: Save Brookside Museum from apartment project (Schenectady Gazette)

  Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Brookside Museum, home of the Saratoga County Historical Society in Ballston Spa, is a charming place in a beautiful, bucolic setting just outside downtown. Not only is it alongside a brook, but a hill, which has already been damaged by its owner (who has excavated without a permit) and would be lost altogether if the Village Board allows him to level it and build six, eight-unit apartment buildings. It shouldn’t.

The museum building has been there since 1792, when it was constructed as a hotel, later to be used as boarding house, sanitarium and private residence. The Historical Society bought it in 1971, when it was in disrepair, rehabbed and opened it as a museum in 1974, featuring historic photos and exhibits, artifacts and programs for schoolchildren.

Back to that hill. It is wooded and also historic, the location of the village’s centennial in 1907. But it already has apartment buildings at the top, starting around 100 yards from the museum, and now the developer wants to level what’s left of it and build more of them much closer to the museum. It doesn’t matter that the developer, after Brookside officials objected to his initial plans, redesigned the project to put the apartments a little farther away.

Like the Stanford Home site in Niskayuna, the hill and its trees are part of the historic and picturesque setting, which would be forever ruined by this project.

The museum has offered a land swap, trading the hill for property it owns not far away at Route 67 and Charlton Street (itself an attractive wooded site by a brook that would be a shame to lose, but better it than the hill). The developer apparently isn’t interested, but the Village Board should make it clear that the hill is off limits.


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