New Paltz Town Council members voted three to two last Thursday in favor of a nine-month moratorium on development in the gateway area of town adjacent to the Thruway and along the upper 299 corridor. In the split decision, Jeff Logan and Marty Irwin held fast in their belief that freezing development while revisiting the zoning rules is unnecessary, and could expose the town to lawsuits.
The only person to add testimony during the final session of the public hearing on the moratorium was local architect Rick Alfandre, although he spoke for more than himself. Prior to weighing in with his own comments, he read a letter from Wildberry Lodge developers Shelley and Steve Turk, who were out of the state and unable to attend in person. All three are opposed to the moratorium as written.
In their letter, the Turks describe how investor interest in their project began to evaporate when the first whiff of “gateway moratorium” reached them a year ago. They reimagined their project to be something more of “Napa Valley meets New Paltz,” replacing a large water park with a butterfly garden, and assert that their investment through the upcoming submission of a draft environmental impact statement will crest at $1 million. “It is critical that we are able to continue through our approval process,” they wrote. “To wait the nine- to 12-month duration of a moratorium will prove too costly” in terms of additional engineering and plan updates to comply with any code changes which are passed during that time. “The proposed moratorium is unfair to us, and we believe it to be, ultimately, problematic for the Town of New Paltz,” they concluded.
Alfandre reminded board members that various proposals have been made for the Wildberry site, including the “infamous Crossroads project,” and that he considered the Turks’ proposal to be a good idea. He did not reference the Walmart proposal from the 1990s, which was in the end abandoned because permission to hook into the village water system was not granted. His main concern with the moratorium is the fact that projects currently before the planning board will not be exempted, as is sometimes done in these cases. Referencing the drug store which prompted a look at zoning along the 299 corridor in the first place, he said that a good project should be not “thrown out with the CVS bath water.”
The lack of exceptions has been the crux of Logan’s opposition all along. He again pointed out that a moratorium on new projects in the village’s NBR zone exempted Zero Place, and questioned why something similar should not be done in this case. In the past, he’s stated that he believes this law is intended to stop the CVS project, which if approved would result in the titular drug store and a hamburger joint built along the Thruway by Route 299.
Logan and Irwin tried to amend the law to exempt projects in process. They attempted the same thing at an earlier meeting, and it was again rebuffed in another three-to-two vote. Irwin called the law as written a “poor way” to treat applicants who had followed the rules.
When Dan Torres pushed for the vote on that amendment rather than discuss the broader issues while that specific motion was on the floor, Logan called him “do-nothing Dan.” At one point, Torres instead addressed the high school students present as a class assignment, joking with them about the rancor on display at the front of the room. That earned him Logan’s derision.
After the law was passed, another lively discussion ensued over exactly what to put in a memorandum replying to concerns raised by planning board members, most of whom were not in support of the moratorium. In the end, Logan and Irwin asked that a roll call vote on the memo itself be appended to it, and thereafter voted against it.
During the nine months, it is hoped that a special board created to recommend zoning changes will complete their work, with time enough left over to pass those changes into law.