McDonald’s project engineer Alan Roscoe brought news to Town of New Paltz Planning Board members last week that some of the variances for this project were granted by members of the Zoning Board of Appeals, and that he’d like to move the application for a remodel toward approval by Planning Board members, as well. Planning board members found themselves being offered what they saw as largely the same set of plans, despite expressing concerns at prior meetings about the design not quite fitting in with the look of the town. This time, they had an architect alongside them to explain their position to the engineer.
Adele Ruger, chair of the Planning Board, liked one example architect Kurt Sutherland brought to the table, from Mattituck, Long Island. “I would eat there,” she said.
Roscoe said that there was a “different set of circumstances” for that store, by which he apparently meant there are regulations which must be followed in that Long Island community which don’t exist in New Paltz, such as approval through an architectural review board.
Ruger disagreed. “We have that authority here in New Paltz,” she explained, but it rests with the Planning Board.
Member Jane Schanberg reinforced that, saying that Sutherland was on hand “to make clear to you what we want,” which is different “than your program.” Roscoe has deflected previous suggestions to modify the look of the store because they’re not laid out in the program for remodeling stores in this part of the country. Board members see this as an opportunity to align this fast-food restaurant with a look that captures an earlier aesthetic than the one under which the place was first built.
“It’s nice that you have a northeast program,” said member Amy Cohen, “but I don’t think New Paltz is part of that program.” She’s in favor of an update, but this community is not along Route 17 in New Jersey, she added.
Sutherland, the architect, explained to Roscoe, the engineer, that attempts to fake an older look on a square, modern building is always going to look fake. While a modern design could fit into the area well in his opinion, board members are looking to the future by seeking to root structures more firmly into the past. The buildings in New Paltz, while eclectic, can actually be seen in terms of concentric rings from the 1700s when the village core was built up, to the 1960s and ’70s structures like the present McDonald’s, which he characterized as adhering to a “Las Vegas strip” sensibility which is no longer preferred.
“New Paltz is not a strip,” agreed board member Amanda Gotto. “We want New Paltz to be its own brand.”
Schanberg got specific: Victorian and colonial cape are among the styles which would be appropriate, but she said that board members “want it to look like it was always there.”
“Come back with something that’s just going to blend in,” said Cohen.
Roscoe explained that this is already a million-dollar project, and some of those ideas simply wouldn’t be possible without an entirely new building. Sutherland laid out a way to add a gable roof in front while leaving room for refrigeration and other units toward the back. “But it’s a redesign,” protested Roscoe. Sutherland assured him such an idea would be manageable and much preferred to the engineer’s suggestion, a false front on the building.
On the other hand, if it’s to remain modern, Cohen said, make it “a little more modern,” with glass and stone. Schanberg added that the color palette, although it appears gray and tan on paper, will be closer to black on walls.
Ruger finished the discussion by telling Roscoe that the “ball’s in your court.”