Clemson Bros Brewery at the Gilded Otter owner Kenan Porter took a harder line at the August 6 New Paltz Village Planning Board meeting. Porter wants to add eight parking spots to the lot of the former Gilded Otter and also fence in the property to allow him to charge to leave a car there. Neighbors in the condominium complex just to the north are concerned that there’s not enough buffer between the lots to support that idea. Porter’s approach was to interrupt or talk over each of the board members while expounding on his ability to listen. He alternately asserted that he has the right to pave more of his lot even without their blessing and seemed to suggest that board members should approve his application based on the economic impact of his business in the village. In the end, board members were not pressured to push the application through but did agree to open the public hearing at the August 20 meeting.
The revised plans Porter submitted indicate that a chain-link fence would be used to regulate traffic into the lot while allowing access for emergency vehicles. No additional landscaping was included, with Porter explaining that he felt simply designating the new spots as employee-only should reduce the impact of headlights hitting home windows. “I’m not very happy with the neighbors’ position, but it’s no big deal,” he said. Whether more was expected to mitigate those concerns proved to be an area of deep contention for the entrepreneur, who gave this reporter the impression that he had considerable experience working through the planning process and that his experience had never before included any need to revise plans for any reason.
During public comment Chris White, representing the condominium board of Town and Country next door, reiterated much of what those neighbors had said before, mainly that the lights and noise from that lot are already bothersome and that adding valid parking even closer would only worsen a difficult situation. While there is a wooded buffer of about a hundred feet, it’s made up of deciduous trees that don’t fully block those intrusions even in the fullness of summer. White didn’t want any board member left with the impression that this was an “impenetrable barrier.”
Board member Tom Rocco fixed on the buffer which already exists, and is entirely on Town and Country property, noted that he did not see that Porter was “giving anything,” and was instead “relying on their goodwill.”
“In a perfect world we could all get what we want,” Porter replied, going on to say that his business is important in the village. Many of his other properties have much less of a buffer, he added, although he wasn’t asked if those buffers are also with residential properties. He reminded board members that he’d previously offered eight trees to bolster it. He claimed he’d received a “threatening” email from condominium board members who wanted more screening than that and said he was “not in a position to be strongarmed.” At the last meeting, he sought the recusal of member Cody Schatzle, a Town and Country resident whose name was allegedly mentioned in that email exchange. Schatzle is an alternate member of the Planning Board with no financial ties to that organization.
Porter may later have regretted mentioning his offer to adding those trees, as he’d actually removed those trees from the latest version of the plans and claimed it was because he wasn’t specifically directed not to leave them. Digging in his heels, he said he intended on planting them but didn’t want to add them back to the plans, because board members hadn’t specifically asked him not to remove them. At one point he formally withdrew the suggestion, but chair Eve Walter explained to him that it’s not actually his decision.
“I want to work with the village of New Paltz,” Porter said. He is improving a property that the former owners were not. He demanded that the application be either approved or rejected, saying that he is “well within his rights” to pave the area regardless. At the same time, he touted the “benefits to the village” provided by that parking lot.
“If you want to pave, you are required to come to the Planning Board,” said board attorney Rick Golden.
“I know how this works,” replied Porter.
For all his claims about what he knows and his listening skills, Porter learned — when he wasn’t talking over one or another board member — that board members weren’t interested in being told by an applicant how they should conduct their meetings or follow the law. Walter explained that she’d asked him to bring “some consideration” for the comments made by neighbors, rather than to simply remove elements from the plan without justification.
It seemed that Porter’s resistance was based on not wanting to make a new plan revision, and he blamed board members for not specifically telling him not to remove the trees which were in the first version. However White, from Town and Country, also questioned whether the site plan was valid as it was not prepared by a licensed professional. That’s a question which was referred to attorney Golden, who said that different parts of the zoning code have differing requirements. He will research the issue and return an answer. Additionally, it was pointed out to Porter that he’d made a mistake in referencing a chain-link fence when he actually meant a chain across the lone gate to the lot. Finally, board members want the layout of the lot with dimensions so that they can analyze the traffic flow.
“I can draw it right now,” Porter said.
“But you didn’t,” responded John Oleske. As with the trees, that detail was apparently removed from the first version of the plan to the second. Oleske also had a problem with Porter asserting that doing nothing would still leave neighbors with lights shining in their windows because people are already parking their cars in that area. He asked Porter to enforce the existing rules, but the business owner claimed that would require a fence. Other property owners in the village contract with towing companies to enforce parking regulations in private lots, but the point was not raised at the table.
“If you didn’t own the business, I would recommend someone else from your business come talk to us,” Oleske told Porter at one point.
Despite the contentious manner in which the applicant conducted himself, board members agreed to open the public hearing on August 20. ++