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Colonie zoning board denies outdoor sports complex near cemetery

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Albany/HV: Colonie zoning board denies outdoor sports complex near cemetery
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COLONIE, N. Y. -- After months of listening to testimony both for and against the creation of an outdoor sports facility next to memory gardens, the Zoning Board of Appeals made their final decision.

Thursday, the Colonie Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously denied Afrim Nezaj permission to build four outdoor soccer fields and a massive 87,000 square-foot indoor facility next to Memory Gardens.

"It seemed like they wanted to vote yes and they couldn't and that's disappointing," Afrim Sports Inc. owner Afrim Nezaj said.

"If he were to put five domes on the property, in theory he wouldn't even have been here tonight discussing this before the board," James Campbell, the ZBA Chairman said.

Two state-of-the-art facilities in Colonie and Latham overflow with kids and cars so the need to expand is pressing, but the indoor option, Afrim says, is just not feasible.

"To build a field it will cost you $500,000-$750,000, and to add a dome it will cost you like $2 million and then the kids couldn't afford it," Afrim said.

"There were a lot of pros an cons on both sides," said Memory Gardens Board of Directors President Cheryl Rebhan.

Opposed to the project's location, Memory Gardens is a cemetery for people to grieve and reflect, but it also has other uses that a sports complex next door could jeopardize.

"People come there to read, to paint, to meditate. We've had a wedding there. It's just a very peaceful place," Rebhan said.

And even though Afrim tried to meet all of the zoning criteria it was not enough to sway the board.

"We'd love to see Afrim develop this project somewhere in the town but we felt that this particular parcel was not an appropriate parcel," Campbell said.

Nezaj added, "It's what I do. I build fields for people and I just think I'm delayed, if anything. I won't stop."

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