After an environmental review process that swallowed up four years, New Paltz Town Planning Board members began to review the site plan for the CVS project on September 25. 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, with a third potential pad site to be developed at a later date. Board members pressed for various concessions, but met resistance which has become the standard refrain from consultants hired to push the project forward. This time, landscape architect Justin Dates was the only representative of New Jersey-based Maser Engineering to appear at the meeting.
The amount of fill being brought to the site has been a focus by board members, as well as residents opposed to the project, since it was first proposed in 2013. Local lore holds that the hole was created during the construction of the Thruway, but all Dates told board members is that no one will shop there if it’s below the grade of Route 299. “It’s down in a hole,” he said, and “would not be sustainable.” He was not asked for, nor did he volunteer, any data to support that assertion, simply stating that “these tenants would not accept” a lower level than that.
“I find that hard to believe,” said board chair Adele Ruger.
After first proposing leveling the property — as well as all the trees thereon — the plan Dates brought forward now would stop about two feet below grade, meaning that 37,000 cubic yards of fill would be needed. In addition to his “tenant” defense, Dates reminded board members that water-treatment systems will be underground, and a lower level would impact that design.
Planning board member Mike Calimano had a solution to suggest: put it under the parking, instead. Calimano sits on the county planning board, and one project reviewed there used such a system. “I could be more comfortable with the amount of fill” if the septic was under asphalt, he told Dates, which could be a “win-win situation” that even preserved some of the existing trees now slated for execution.
With that proposal in mind, Dates shifted focus again, admitting that “it’s mostly about the tenants,” because “the perception is it’s more interesting” if the site is closer to the road level.
Dates reiterated the applicant’s preference to secure a waiver of the requirement calling for every tree that’s 12 inches or more in diameter be identified, and board member Lyle Nolan was all for it. “It’s pointless if they’re cutting them all down,” said Nolan, and attempts to preserve them likely doomed to fail since the roots would likely be damaged regardless. He made no reference to construction techniques which might avoid that fate.
A “substantial” amount of new trees would be planted on the site, said Dates, as well as plants for screening along both travel roads.
Board member Amy Cohen asked about covered bus stops and a possible “bicycle rest stop” for the planned Empire State Trail, but the consensus seemed to be that a better understanding of what state officials are intending should be secured before obtaining commitments from this developer.
The applicant himself pressed board members to say whether or not they would now approve the project, if there wasn’t a moratorium in place, but in that board members showed an unusual amount of agreement: it is premature to make any such commitments.