Due to a death in the family of one of the consultants, the New Paltz Town Planning Board agreed at its meeting on Monday night to continue the public hearing on the CVS/Five Guys project until June 22. Board chairman Mike Calimano, who was not present at Monday night’s meeting, had previously expressed a desire to close the hearing at this meeting and move forward with determining if this project will require a full environmental impact statement, a step which the growing voices in opposition would like the applicant to take. Such an analysis would result in additional costs and delays for the project, and the applicant’s attorney has made it clear that he does not feel it is necessary. The number and complexity of open questions has led to the continuous call for the board to issue a positive declaration of impact, which would trigger requiring an EIS be prepared.
This is a project which would transform one of the most highly visible lots in the town, nestled between the Thruway and North Putt Corners Road. The Putt Corners intersection with Main Street constrains all traffic from the east, and is rated a “C” by traffic experts at best. Even without putting retail on this site, the state Department of Transportation is considering upgrades to the intersection, in part to accommodate a bike path that will connect the Hudson Valley and Wallkill Valley rail trails. Adding an entrance ramp to the site from Main Street has given DOT engineers the opportunity to ask that the dedicated right-turn “slip lane” with yield sign be replaced with a signalized turn onto North Putt Corners instead.
Preparing this long, narrow and sloped site for a 13,225 square-foot CVS and a 2,600 Five Guys Pizza and Fries would involve removing all the trees and other vegetation and carting in 1,600 tri-axle trucks of fill to level to property. That would make it possible to construct the entrance off Main, as well as an entrance and exit onto North Putt Corners. Parking would be in front of the two stores, one of which would have a drive-through lane. The proposal is at odds with a number of requirements and design standards, leading the applicant to ask for waivers of some rules, such as the one calling for every tree that’s 12 inches in diameter at breast height be noted on the site plan. In requesting that waiver, attorney Charles Bazydlo indicated that since all trees are to be removed, putting them on the map would be an unnecessary burden. Whether the tremendous amount of fill — the source and composition of which has yet to be determined — runs afoul of the town’s clearing and grading law has not yet been discussed by the board. However, parking in front bucks a trend in design, both in New Paltz town and in other municipalities around the region.
Despite being told by deputy chairman Lyle Nolan that no official record of any testimony would be made at Monday’s meeting, ten people chose to speak against the project anyway. Reasons range from moral questions which are not technically the board’s to consider, like the disparity of pay between CVS employees and its CEO, to concerns about the impact on area traffic patterns, air and noise pollution. The traffic study, and its analysis by Ken Wersted of consultant Creighton Manning, have been particularly lambasted as inadequate. During Monday’s testimony, however, it was revealed that Creighton Manning, and Wersted in particular, have worked on behalf of CVS projects in recent years. Resident Michael Zierler called for the firm to be immediately replaced and the analysis reviewed by an independent firm. In addition to those impacts, questions of community character are frequently raised, often referencing the size and unimaginative design of the buildings, and accompanied by requests for more representations of what the project will look like from a number of different angles, including approaching southbound on the Thruway. The one drawing thus far presented was described by resident Kevin Borden as being from the perspective of “a leprechaun standing in the Sunoco parking lot.”