51 Main Street, a building which briefly had a Facebook group renamed in its joking honor as the “New Paltz Rectangle Appreciation Society,” may become a usable building yet. Developer Dimitri Viglis appeared before the New Paltz Village Planning Board on July 2 to try to square the problems with the highly visible building on lower Main Street.
“What’s better about this?” asked board alternate Tom Rocco. The question was loaded with the history of this project, which is rather long for a building under construction. Earlier members of the board had approved this three-story building more than five years ago when they were told the first two floors would be a single Greek restaurant, topped by a penthouse apartment with commanding views of the ridge. Once construction finally began, residents quickly noticed that the new building was large enough to demand commanding views of itself. Because it was designed to max out the height requirement and it was also on a slope, the “rectangle” drew the eye, and a lot of online conversation followed. That the construction took place over months and years only added to the interest.
A number of changes to the plans seem to have taken place, including changes to the number of apartments and a proposal to put more rentable space in the basement. Eventually, it all resulted in Viglis having no place to put the air conditioning units, propane tanks and other machinery needed for a restaurant. Such mechanicals can take up as much as 10% of the roof, or could have if the building were not right at the maximum height. There may have been a verbal agreement with a neighbor, but it was never put in writing. Viglis asked for permission to bury propane tanks under the village-owned parking lot behind the building, and when he was turned down, he made an offer to buy that land. Trustees are now negotiating with a party who they say made a better offer.
Viglis answered Rocco’s question by explaining some of the major differences. Gone is the restaurant entirely, with plans now calling for a jewelry store on the first floor, with two offices directly above. The penthouse is being returned as the sole apartment on the top floor, and the basement will be used for storage only. This plan avoids the need for propane or large machinery.
John Oleske eyed the drainage plan with suspicion, not about whether it would work but about whether it would ever get built. Permeable paving stones will be laid atop a layer of gravel, allowing water to percolate through and be stored during a heavy rain event and only then drain out over time. It would be a marked improvement for a lot which was 100% covered by building and pavement. The basins go beyond what’s required, according to architect Richard Miller. “Four wells are required,” he said. “How much will this cost?” He added that this part of the project might have been less “complicated and expensive” had it been done before putting up the building. Now there will be a lot of excavation needed.
Board attorney Rick Golden suggested simply making proper operation of the system a condition for final approval, which mollified Oleske. He did have other suggestions which won’t end up in the approval. “Could you take down the construction fence and clean up the back?” he asked, as the lot right now looks “kind of like a blight downtown.” That would be a good-faith gesture of a desire to work in partnership, Oleske told Viglis.
Viglis denied that there was trash behind the building, to which Oleske replied, “I took a photo, and I have it here in my pocket.” After viewing it, Viglis had nothing more to say on the subject.
Planning Board members did not set a public hearing on this revised site plan, because first Viglis must secure a variance because the building is 10,000 square feet in area. He was granted such a variance years ago, but that approval lapsed and now he needs to ask for it again. In the likely event ZBA members do not say “no,” he will return to the Planning Board to get that hearing scheduled.