The moratorium on development in the gateway area of town near the Thruway in New Paltz is likely to expire before any new zoning regulations are passed, because Town Board members agreed last week to close the public hearing with no intention to vote on the code as written.
During the hearing, planner Liz Axelson of Morris Associates went over a set of lengthy objections prepared by herself and attorney Charles Martobano to the proposed changes. She appeared on behalf of the Panessa family, members of which are seeking to develop a project they’ve dubbed Ferris Woods. It would be 60 two-bedroom senior citizen apartments built in a wetland-dappled property between the end of Brouck Ferris Boulevard and the car wash on Route 299.
The Ferris Woods project is dependent upon the existing zoning, while the new rules would shunt the property into the same R-1 zoning which covers the only street by which it could be accessed, Brouck Ferris Boulevard. The Panessas’ consultants raised a considerable number of objections, but many of them boiled down to a need for much more detail in the required environmental review. Axelson suggested not only a more detailed analysis of the zoning, but a lot-by-lot inventory in which would be laid out the specifics of exactly what would be possible under the new code.
Axelson argued that the pedestrian focus of the gateway plans could be imperiled by the lack of sufficient housing in the area, and said that rezoning in this manner would be a “missed opportunity” to reach the critical mass of local pedestrians needed to really draw in retail business owners. A community housing study could be conducted to bear that out, she maintained. In addition, Axelson told council members that the rationale for rezoning the Panessas’ land “is not there.”
Council members also heard that the wetlands and town-mandated buffer zones would be “left undisturbed.” The backup well locations identified are within the wetland buffer, as is the proposed entrance via the Diamond Car Wash property. That entrance as designed would use existing pavement, but the plans show a “proposed car wash pavement expansion” which would extend into the buffer.
Supervisor Neil Bettez acknowledged that some of the points Axelson raised were valid, and recommended closing the hearing to allow the town’s attorney and planner to review the comments. “It’s not physically possible to get all this done before the end of the moratorium,” he said; applicants who wish to move forward at that time, however, would be risking the possibility that the rules could change before final approval is granted by Planning Board members.