What is the USDO?

This is the official description:

Albany’s Unified Sustainable Development Ordinance (USDO) is a modernized zoning ordinance, designed to integrate land use regulations with sustainable best practices, such that, it incentivizes quality development that balances the interests of our community with protecting our natural environment. The USDO folds all past development-related regulations and overlays into one readable and user-friendly document—making it easier for property owners to pursue their project development, and for the City to undergo a less onerous review process.

Stop the Stories wants to incentivize environmentally responsible development that preserves the character of the neighborhoods our residents have been investing in for years!

What are some of the problems with the USDO?

  The goal of the USDO was to encourage development that is consistent with extant neighborhoods, with the idea that we could boost our population and increase tax revenue. Instead, the real goal seems to be  to bring in loads of renters at the expense of those of us who have been here for decades, if not generations, and who have been contributing to Albany's communities in all kinds of ways.

 In the rush to build new developments, it doesn't seem as if any care has been taken to ensure that:

1. the water infrastructure can handle all the additional sewage when there is a massive amount of rain. 

2. there is someplace to put the garbage, since Rapp Road is closing soon. 

3. the roads can handle the additional traffic.

4. the new buildings are of appropriate height.

5. there will be enough renters to fill all these spaces, given that so many city rentals are already nowhere near capacity. 

6. the city is equipped to maintain codes. 

7. homeowners have been adequately apprised of what the construction process will be like over a period of years. 

8.  environmental impact statements have been completed. 

It just seems like developers have gotten carte blanche to build whatever they want, and meanwhile, we homeowners, who have invested everything we've got in our homes and neighborhoods, are wondering whether our housing values will collapse as a result of these developments, which seem likely to  ruin our neighborhoods. 

Either outcome - that there continues to be a dearth of renters, thus leaving these buildings empty and under-regulated,  or that lots of renters come (from somewhere!), and there simply isn't the physical and regulatory capacity to handle them all, seems quite problematic. Why can't we slow down and make sure the USDO is working for us, not the other way around? 

Meanwhile, the city is filled with vacant buildings that are not being managed or renovated at all. It's as if the idea is to put in super high-density buildings in neighborhoods uptown, while simultaneously abandoning the good folks who live elsewhere amid crumbling buildings. It just seems like  we don't have a coherent vision for a sustainable, 21st century Albany, so developers are just running us over, in some cases with information that appears actively dishonest. (The EAP for 563 New Scotland, for example, says simultaneously that they will put in an underground garage and also that the project will not involve excavation. We don't know how to square that circle, but it makes us think we need a full EIS to be sure we are getting the whole story.) 

Contact your Ward Leader

Click the link to find out who your Council Person is and how to contact him or her. 

Ask him or her  to carefully review the proposed amendments to the USDO, so that our rights a residents are prioritized over the profits of developers!

Ask for a  moratorium on large scale development until the USDO has been improved.


Important Planning Board Meeting Information from Tuesday, May 28

I am writing to you (and others who oppose the overbuilding in certain areas of the city that exceed our recently adopted USDO height and density regulations) to encourage you to speak out at the Planning Board meeting on Tuesday, May 28th at 5:45PM at 200 Henry Johnson Blvd in support of my proposed amendment to the USDO that would suspend the current provisions of the USDO that automatically grant developers an extra story to all developments in the City of Albany solely because they use green or blue roof technology.

As explained in the attached powerpoint presentation,:

1.  the use of green or blue roof technology results in no greater benefits to the City and its residents since developers are already subject to similar or stricter standards for storm water management and the blue and green roof technology counts towards fulfillment of those requirements and are NOT in addition to those requirements (so why are we allowing them to build an extra story beyond what was the agreed upon maximum for each zoned area when there is no added benefit to the city or its residents?);

2.  that developers of sites of ¼ of an acre or less are absolutely required to implement green and blue roof technology or comply with stricter requirements without getting any kind of “incentive” and  there is no public policy rationale for granting the current “incentive” that allows some developers to build an additional story while imposing this requirement on smaller developers without any incentives;

3.  there are questions regarding the way these “incentives” are being interpreted and applied since the code also absolutely prevents storm water and roof run off from going into our combined sewers and the stricter standards apply as a matter of law. (and the blue roof and green roof technology requirements implicitly allow developers to direct excessive roof run off to go into our combined sewers.

The Planning Board needs to be encouraged to act immediately (at the 5/28 meeting) to suspend this incentive since it is permanently adversely affecting neighborhoods throughout the city with the city and residents incurring no benefit whatsoever.  

                I would appreciate your support of this initiative (initially proposed by the Planning Department as part of their comprehensive amendments) – but believe the potential negative impact on our city and all of our neighborhoods warrants enacting these changes immediately.

                I appreciate any support you can lend on such short notice.


Click on "Download" to see J. Doesschate's Powerpoint regarding green and blue roof give aways. USDO - Incentive Ordinance ZTA 0009 (pptx)