Section: CAPITAL REGION,  Page: B1

Date: Tuesday, April 6, 2004

Despite plans to include 800 housing units on former farmland, the Saratoga Saddle Club on Ballston Lake is the best way to preserve the town's rural character, an architect for the project said Monday. Architect Dominick Ranieri said half of the 370 acres would be left as open space, interspersed with million-dollar houses, horse barns, town houses, horse trails and ``the hamlet,'' a small shopping center. Developer Victor Gush holds an option to buy the land from Julio Cappiello. The acres lie between Route 50 and Ballston Lake.

Many of the 200 residents, who gathered at the first public unveiling of the development Monday, left unconvinced.

``It's the wrong thing for this community. It's just the wrong thing,'' said Paul Simpson, a volunteer firefighter in Ballston Lake, who added that he is organizing his neighbors to fight the development.

Nancy Bellamy of Clifton Park, who grew up on Ballston Lake, said she was disappointed the Planning Board members didn't ask the developers more questions.

Bellamy said she is worried about the effect of increased runoff from the development into Ballston Lake; the probability the number of boats on the lake would increase with so many newcomers; the impact on the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake schools; and where spectators at equestrian events within the development would park.

Bellamy was particularly irritated by what she said was elitism in plans for stores and a deli built to serve the residents of Saratoga Saddle Club.

``They won't need Ballston Spa or the village of Ballston Lake. They will keep away from the rest of us,'' Bellamy said.

Gush emphasized the plans were ``very, very preliminary.'' He has not yet filed an application with the Ballston Town Board for a planned unit development, but said he thought it would be submitted within a month.

An engineer on the project said the plans call for three miles of sewer line along the bike path near Ballston Lake. An existing 12-inch-diameter water line would provide water, said Mike Groff of Chas. H. Sells. Inc.

The area where the farmland sits, between White Beach Road and the intersection of routes 146A and 50, is zoned for commercial development, Groff said. The zoning allows for 300,000 square feet of commercial space, buildings 40 feet high and 1,000 parking spaces.

``We don't want to do that. Instead, we want to protect scenic vistas,'' Groff said.

Mary Egan, whose land is next to the Cappiello property, rejected Saratoga Saddle Club. She scraped together money in the 1960s to buy 50 acres, she said, in hopes of seeing it remain unblemished by development. ``I bought the land to keep it like God made it,'' Egan said.