Many who live in and visit New Paltz believe it to be an arts community. With the approval of the Denizen theater by New Paltz Village Planning Board members on November 21, that idea will now be able to manifest on lower Main Street.
Board members reviewed and haggled over the many conditions imposed on the project, and approved it on a narrow 3-2 vote. A lengthy discussion about establishing a methodology for determining, in a year, if there’s sufficient parking at Water Street Market to accommodate the theater ultimately proved fruitless, and board members agreed that there was no clear way to figure out which cars were parked by theatergoers and which were not. That ambiguity may have weighed into the decision of members Michael Zierler and John Litton to vote against approval.
The fact that parking for this project will be entirely on a different site, albeit an adjacent one, made it unusual. Only 12 spots in the Water Street Market are needed, but the fact that the parking configuration there no longer conforms with that facility’s site plan muddied the waters. One condition to ensure safe traffic flow is to remove the four center spots in the market’s upper parking lot, nearest where the theater will be built. When Zierler was told that the spots have been blacked out and patrons are discouraged from parking there, he advised architect Richard Miller that stronger measures may be necessary.
Chairman Zierler called it “lively and controversial,” and noted that board members were approached individually by residents to discuss the issue; at least one referred to it as “lobbying.” According to board attorney Rick Golden, planning board members cannot consider any information that has not been entered into the public record, which may include some of what they were told in those private conversations.
“I hope it’s a success, and as attractive in reality as it is on paper,” said Zierler just before the vote was taken, “because it impacts Water Street Market and neighbors.”