Posted at: 09/20/2013 12:43 AM
Updated at: 09/20/2013 11:45 AM
By: Dan Levy
COLONIE - The Colonie Zoning Board of Appeals held off on a decision Thursday night that would have allowed a local businessman to move forward with his plan to build a soccer complex off Watervliet Shaker Road, directly adjacent to Memory Gardens Cemetery.
Afrim Nezaj wants to include four outdoor artificial turf soccer fields and an 86,865 square foot indoor dome on the property, although he needs the ZBA first to sign off on the project.
Most of the opposition to the sports complex is coming from Memory Gardens families, more than 500 of whom have signed an on-line petition, saying the location is insensitive.
Andy Marino buried his two year old daughter Monica at Memory Gardens three years ago and was clutching her picture when he spoke before the board.
"I can tell you, any noise created by this facility I would hear when I'm standing at Monica's grave," Marino said. "I'm begging you, I'll get down on my knees if you want, don't let this happen."
Frank Murray says he too visits his son's grave at Memory Gardens on a regular basis.
"This is not the right place to put this facility next to a cemetery," Murray said, "It will affect the serenity and peacefulness of the loved ones that go there."
Nezaj says he understands people's concerns, but also realizes everyone grieves differently.
"I have a brother who passed away when he was eight," Nezaj says, "If I was in his cemetery and I was visiting him, I would rather there be ball fields next to his cemetery."
Many people spoke in favor of the soccer complex. Several young soccer players and their families told ZBA members Afrim is providing a valuable service to the community.
One woman, whose family owns a nearby diner, said she can't wait until the complex opens.
"I think an establishment like this would be great for the community and great for businesses in the area," she said.
Sue Coleman, whose had her property on the market for five years, and has lowered the price more than once, says she's counting on the money to fund her retirement.
"I'm only purchasing the land because it's a low price," Nezaj said. "If it was any higher, it wouldn't work. (Other) land where there might be allowed uses, you couldn't afford."
But Memory Gardens officials say the complex would be wrongly placed.
"I just think that would be an intrusion of privacy and taking away people's moments alone," asserts Cheryl Rebhan, vice president of the Memory Gardens board of directors.
The ZBA held off on their decision Thursday to allow sound consultants more time to evaluate noise levels in the middle of the 200 acre cemetery property, as opposed to on the borders of the property. That data is expected to be presented to the board in November.