New Paltz planners opt for less stringent review of CVS/Five Guys project

The intersection of Route 299 and Putt Corners in New Paltz. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

With a vote of  4-3 vote, New Paltz Town Planning Board members voted Monday to make a negative declaration of environmental impact for the Trans-Hudson Management application. The so-called CVS proposal calls for the titular drug store, as well as a Five Guys Burgers and Fries, to be placed on the 5.6-acre parcel bounded by the Thruway, Route 299 and North Putt Corners Road in New Paltz, with a third potential pad site to be developed at a later date. The votes mean no in-depth environmental impact statement is to be prepared for more detailed analysis of issues such as traffic and the clear-cutting of the premises. The vote is a statement that the impacts don’t rise to the level of significance required under the State Environmental Quality Review act, or SEQR.

Board members didn’t broach the subject until after 10 p.m.; the agenda was doubly long due to a cancelled meeting, and CVS was last on the list. Without discussing the content of the resolutions before them, board members were closely split on two critical votes: the first to accept the revised part three of the environmental assessment form, or EAF; the second was a resolution on the significance of the environmental impact. In both instances, co-chairs Adele Ruger and Lagusta Yearwood were joined by Amanda Gotto in their dissent.


Gotto, the newest member of the board, pressed board attorney George Lithco for information on what comes next. He assured her that options up to and including denying the application remain available through the site plan review process, but more than once he stressed that the reasons must “relate to the site plan standards.”

Justin Dates, a consultant on the project, immediately offered to prepare a response to those lingering concerns, which include questions over clearing of living trees, filling with tons of material to level the property, and traffic impacts for a project adjacent to the most congested intersection in the town.

The news was not welcome by the few elected officials reached on short notice to comment. If this project “doesn’t require at least looking at an EIS, I’m not sure the system is working well,” said Town Supervisor Neil Bettez. “What would you have to do” to make that case, he wondered, adding that the notion that such a large project doesn’t warrant an EIS is “shocking.”

Deputy Supervisor Dan Torres is clear on where his duty now lies. “If 13,000 trucks worth of fill and cutting down six acres of trees does not warrant further environmental review, I am not sure what does. That decision highlights the need for a moratorium and in my mind is a litmus test for current planning board members who may seek reappointment.”

After the votes Yearwood said, “We didn’t do our job” with the environmental review. “I’m ashamed of us,” she added.

There are 6 comments

  1. Architect and Planner

    No, actually, what is “shocking” is that this process has taken so long, dragged intentionally to kill what is a viable, logical development in our primary commercial zoned district along our primary commercial street, and adjacent to our primary grocery-retail area outside of downtown. What is “shocking” is that the resistence by NIMBY’s is allowed to happen to this degree. What is “shocking” is that just like the horror of building a new hotel was touted for years…we see that the new hotel is very nice, aesthetically pleasing, brings new jobs, new lodging, new tax revnue and NO!!! Behold!!! The new hotel did not ruin the area, or
    create ANY new noticable traffic! Gee…who would have guess?!?!?! What is “shocking” is that while PC
    politics wreak havoc on this town we ACTUALLY SEE THE FOLLOWING: A grafitti and trash strewn
    abandoned diner at our precious ‘gateway’ and a cleared site because the town fights new development.
    We see Shop Rite Plaza desperately needing a re-design, renovation and re-development. We see flagrant disregard for any of these ‘community standards’ on the hideous jumbled antique and noodle building across from the high school. We see China House with it’s grease smeared exterior exhaust system in a building that needs to be either restored or torn down. We see a municipal lot that should be landscaped and upgraded (or better yet be a two story parking garage with retail and residential!), we see a Main Street with pot holes so deep and jarring it rattles the bones. We see the desperate need for our critical bus depot to be rebuilt/redeveloped. We see the filthy ‘hostel’ that looks as if it should be condemned. We see outdated 1950s era apartments that should be renovated and upgraded to 2017 standards. We see a laundry list of 50 things (I can continue if you’d like) that the Town/Village ‘should’ be doing to improve our streetscapes, put up-to-date, modern, livable housing downtown (Zero Place, anyone?!?!??!?!?). We see an ineffective council and boards who’d rather squabble about ‘stuff’ instead of taking decisive action to improve our Main Street and the retail and residential along the way. Well guess what? I live here. I pay taxes. I vote. And I expect services and options so I don’t have to drive to Kingston or Poughkeepsie to get things done. I want CVS/5 Guys to be approved and built. So stop messing with us and get to work doing your jobs. Lastly — I want the town to focus on REAL ISSUES like building a seperate steel truss pedestrian/bike only bridge parallel to 299 crossing the Thruway and trails built leading to that bridge from the New Paltz side to the Ohioville side — giving pedestrians and cyclists SAFE access along this corridor, if the town had any savvy they would have a fee included in approvals for CVS/5 Guys and any other new development that would make this happen. But-you are all to busy bickering with each other to see that is possible or to make it happen.

  2. Steven L Fornal

    Lagusta Yearwood said, “We didn’t do our job” with the environmental review. “I’m ashamed of us,” she added.

    Agreed! My wonder is, was the EAF a short form or long form version? If short form, wow.

    As for Architect and Planner’s comments: Most of what you feel should be done, (which I agree for the most part) happened because of old local code and NYS law that mandates “grandfathering” without any real intervention from review boards.

    However, in order to accomplish what you suggest, the town needs more and better written code (not less) to assure impacts and conditions you describe are ameliorated.

    But, the CVS/5 Guys project should have had a thorough EIS review.

    As for attorney George Lithco’s assurance that “options up to and including denying the application remain available through the site plan review process, but more than once he stressed that the reasons must ‘relate to the site plan standards’,” isn’t really correct. While technically true, it’s very difficult to deny a Special Use Permit when the use being reviewed is an allowable use. Only by a refusal of a Planning Board’s conditional recommendations for site plan would there be grounds for denial. And, without an EIS detailing the possible impacts, demanding conditions that aren’t backed by an EIS review, are easily challenged in court and the PB will be at risk of losing an Article 78.

    Never ceases to amaze me that businessmen send in their hired professionals to basically reduce the start up costs without any concern whatsoever for the community. These professionals (attorneys, engineers, etc) are paid to reduce any/all possible cost factors which ALWAYS include having to do a better job dealing with storm water run off, parking, traffic concerns, gaudy facades that don’t enhance the neighborhoods in which they impose themselves, etc. Oftentimes the only real solution to a project’s impacts is to retool the proposal which adds time and money. That’s when you start to hear grumbling about review boards being a deterrent to business growth.

    The problem seems to be that these professionals don’t come into a review board’s pre-application discussion ready to take the board’s recommendations. They come in hoping to whittle down those recommendations so that the cost of start up will be reduced.

    Couple that with the UCIDA’s PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) program which allows for a reduction in taxes paid for jobs created. Problem is, as several NYS Comptroller reports have detailed, we have only gotten 20 percent of the jobs promised. How? Because the IDA doesn’t have jobs pinned to tax reduction in their contracts; only in their application.

    So, too bad such a project as CVS/5 Guys isn’t going to have a proper review vis-a-vis SEQR. Perhaps when complaints start coming in about egress problems due to traffic congestion and storm water issues on adjoining properties and how the treeless paved parcel looks blighted, they should be channeled to the four affirming voters on the PB.

  3. Commuter B

    You ever notice the pedestrian walkway now across the interstate is on the south side of the structure shadowed that is why town employees have to shovel snow and ice. If the sidewalk had been on the north side snow would melt before the town got there make it a county road so county can shovel because the state wont

  4. the Sixth Guy

    And what about all the poor cows that will lose their lives to supply a Five Guys in New Paltz! Did anyone ask the cows what they want? I’m sure they don’t want to be ground up into hamburgers to be sold in New Paltz. And all the methane they will produce before slaughter will be bad for the ozone layer. The carbon produced to raise them, ship, cook them will contribute to global warming. Not to mention all the human waste and trash generated. Think very hard on this decision. It has worldwide implications!

  5. Paul Sutera

    We need another drug store, and another chain fast-food restaurant? I agree with the need for more housing and other development, but if I wanted New Paltz to look like Route 9 in Poughkeepsie, I wouldn’t have moved here 30 years ago. Already getting through New Paltz on a weekend or at rush hour can be daunting. And the traffic overflow effects on the side corridors should also be a part of the study. We should not equate “progress” with looking like every other town in the country. Do we need a 3rd drug store in town? Do we need another chain restaurant when there are so many good alternatives downtown? We can become another “me-too” town all too easily. The most overloaded intersection in town does not need more traffic.

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