Hydrofracking and Liberty Gardens update on Planning Board agenda

The Planning Board will discuss the merits of a proposed ban on "hydrofracking" in Rome when it meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

The five-member volunteer board intends to make a recommendation to the Common Council on currently tabled legislation regarding a permanent ban on hydraulic fracturing in Rome. Commonly called hydrofracking, the process extracts natural gas by pressure-drilling a mix of water, sand and chemicals more than a mile vertically and horizontally into the earth. The dense rock is broken up to release methane, which is pumped back up along with the fracking liquid.

The board will also review a sketch plan for a three-lot subdivision at Liberty Gardens, the apartment complex at 200 N. Levitt St.

The Rome Housing Authority and its partner, Omni Housing Development of Albany, have obtained board approval for the ongoing phase one work, and will now present the initial plans for how to divide the rest of the parcel for future rehabilitation and construction.

The first phase covers rehabilitation of buildings 300, 500 and 700 — 60 total family units — and six newly constructed buildings consisting of 18 units. The unit mix includes 14 one-bedroom, 24 two-bedroom, 35 three-bedroom and five four-bedroom units, with several handicap and hearing and/or vision impaired units. Work started this summer, and is estimated to be completed in 18 months. It will cost about $13 million.

Phase two will cover buildings 100, 200 and 800. The first of those buildings is where the Authority offices and the community room are located; it does not have any apartments. The specifics of the phase depend largely on the fate of the community room. The state, which regulates most of the complex, wants the Authority to build a new, stand-alone community room, which it would fund, said Authority board chair James F. Masucci. The Authority prefers the room as it is now, but would have to add an elevator to the building for handicap accessibility compliance if it were to remain, he said. It would also mean adding new units elsewhere instead of modifying building 100 to house them if a new community room were built nearby. The phase’s cost estimate — including the cost of a new community room — is about $14 million, said Masucci.

Phase three is still vague, Masucci said. It will depend on how many units are in place after phase two. The goal is to maintain exactly 180 units, as there are now. The decision on the community room will impact the phase as well.

There will be no changes to buildings 400 and 600, as they are federally regulated and not included in the project.

Owners of the Rome Shopping Center at 5817-5819 Rome-Taberg Road will retukrn to the board for final approval of a three-lot subdivision there. The board must approval the final plat for the plan. In November, the board unanimously granted both a clean environmental review and site plan approval for the subdivision. The property is just east of Wal-Mart. This approval process does not allow for new construction, just sale of the parcels. New construction would need future board approval.