“We’re stuck”- Easement problem at 51 Main St., New Paltz, again stymies its development

The nearly complete building at 51 Main Street in New Paltz, referred to by some as “the big rectangle,” has met another stumbling block in the owner’s quest to get it open for business. There is not adequate access to the building via motor vehicle, making it impossible for the village planning board to approve the amended site plan. Developer Dimitri Viglis must resolve that issue.

As explained by board attorney Rick Golden, the only way to get to the building’s parking spaces is by driving over village property. That’s a detail which was overlooked when the project was approved in 2014, and it might not have become an issue had Viglis not been forced by the building regulations to file an application to amend the site plan. He had to do that because various other changes to the plans had made it impossible for the owner to obtain a certificate of occupancy. 

This is the second time Viglis has sought a change of use for the project. The project originally proposed a two-story restaurant and penthouse apartment. Viglis sought to modify the plan by putting offices on the second floor. The present application would replace restaurant with retail so as to avoid some of the other issues which have arisen. 


The full site plan was not reviewed during that second round, Golden explained. A late-afternoon email from the mayor caused the planning board to look more closely to this application.

Viglis has been plagued by problems which some villages trustees have characterized as self-created. To the consternation of many New Paltz residents, his building was designed to be as tall as zoning allows. But the developer then discovered that there wasn’t enough room to put mechanical systems he needed on the roof. So he sought permission to bury a propane tank a few feet from the village parking lot behind the building. 

His pleas may have been what convinced village officials to look into selling the lot to a private developer. Unfortunately for Viglis, his bid for that property was not the most appealing. 

By removing plans for a restaurant, his change of use is intended to eliminate the need for bulky roof machinery or underground propane tanks. But now he has learned that driving through the village parking lot to access 51 Main Street is also an issue. As board chair Eve Walter explained, the lack of an easement has halted the process.

The developer thought he had some assurances that an easement would be forthcoming once the sale of the lot was complete. The mayor had put it on Facebook, he said.

Golden denied that plans to work with neighboring propertyowners constituted an agreement. If the trustees declined to agree, Viglis could try to convince members of the zoning board of appeals that the easement problem was not one that he had created.

Walter said that there was “nothing we can do at this level.” She suggested Viglis pursue the other options.

“We’re stuck,” agreed her colleague John Oleske.

This obstacle comes at a difficult time for Viglis. His present application was filed in response to a notice from a village building inspector that he’d better get this project wrapped up. It wasn’t immediately clear how this delay might impact village enforcement against him.

Artistic loss

The conversion of the space at 58 Main Street from coffee house to restaurant was approved by the village planning board after local musicians argued that its denial would cost New Paltz a valuable space for artistic expression. Though building owner Bobby Downs said he shared those misgivings.

One open-mike host doubted Downs’ sincerity on that count as he left the building.

After becoming established under the names Muddy Cup, Cafeteria and Cafamelia, the coffee house was closed down by the most recent leaseholders this summer. The change of use will result in a kitchen being installed again as the spoace is reopened as a Tibetan restaurant, Downs said.

Lily Lavender Wolf identified herself as a member of the artistic community and a frequent open-mike host at 58 Main and elsewhere. Wolf termed the place “the hub of the entire town. The open-mike nights and Sunday jazz jams had originated in the Slash Root coffee bar next door to 58 Main and migrated into Cafeteria when the former venue was closed down around 2012. She warned that “the townies” might desert the community entirely. New Paltz would thereby lose its best part, she said, and “never have the same charm.”

Several others expressed similar sentiments, saying 58 Main had been a safe space for queer residents and ideal for those who wished to spend long hours working without feeling isolated. Some 23 others sent in letters with similar sentiments.

Board chair Eve Walter explained that it was beyond the purview of planning board to dictate what sort of business was conducted in the space. Downs said he appreciated the business model, but that it was difficult to maintain profitability for it. He noted that he had turned down tenants offering higher rents, such as bars and restaurants where standard bar-type food like pizza and burgers would be served. They didn’t fit his vision of New Paltz, he said.

John Oleske agreed that the café was a public good, but said it wasn’t within the powers of the planning board to preserve that good.

The board approved the change of use unanimously. As Downs left the room, Wolf called loudly after him, inviting him to perform an anatomically implausible act upon himself.

There are 12 comments

  1. SG

    What a joke.
    The owner should sue New Paltz for all the $ spent on a plan which was APPROVED by New Paltz before it was shovels in the ground!!!

    How on earth can New Paltz look a person in the eye who has a 95% completed builidng standing empty for a year now!?!?!? And for New Paltz it looks bad to have a 3-story brand new building sitting empty for so long.

    Get on with it and let this person finish up and get the lights on.

    This is the kind of idiocy that makes people not want to work, live or do business in New Paltz.

  2. taxpayer

    What is hard to understand is how the Bistro and Moonlight Cafe have been using the parking lot without an easement for as far back as I can remember and the village is totally ok with that but this person can’t.

  3. village idiot

    This is what happens when a population of 8000 is lead by a mayor that got elected with 370 votes. Math says thats less than 5%

    1. The Village Idiot

      The protected class has grown to 370 voters? That’s a 43% increase! It’s called “Share The Glory.”

  4. SteveInNP

    While I too wonder how this disaster ever got approved, at the same time it smacks of a developer who didn’t give two wits for how his building would fit in with the rest of the town and banked on being able to get easements for all the ways in which his plans were too grandiose for the location. This is what happens when wealthy developers think rules don’t apply to them.

  5. Oren

    Just confirms impression of how dysfunctional New Paltz governance is and anti-development. Why make things so difficult for folks trying to innovate ?

  6. Ida May

    The Ulster County Industrial Development Agency should be paying his taxes, lawyer’s fees and building changing costs so that there can be more jobs created.

  7. Eddy

    Like many others, I concur this is a typical land grab by the Village Planning Board, an oxymoron within the name itself, these idiots couldn’t figure out how to zone a cardboard box appropriately. As per typical, they’re trying to push away any potential development that will bring in business to the town. If there’s one thing the village has proven is that they don’t want anyone that doesn’t fit their political and demographic mold bolstering business. Unfortunately that’s not something that will ever change, it’s a board operated by people in positions of power that are self serving. This isn’t new and won’t change, discrimination doesn’t have to be racially motivated, it’s socio-economic as well.

    If they wanted to keep the Cafeteria alive, they’d do everything in their power to support and promote it. Instead like anything else, they assume that hopes and dreams pay the rent of the owners. The same applies to every new business in this town, they either succeed because of the significant amount of New Yorkers (not locals) that support them OR they go out of business because the local “townies” (as they proclaim themselves) are too poor to frequent the space and spend money. They’d rather sit on a stool in a dimly lit, poorly maintained building mumbling into a microphone proclaiming it’s revelatory “open mic” than helping promote and actually support their favorite businesses.

    It’s sad when places like La Charla, Main Course, even Asian Fusion/Fuchsia Tiki Bar are supported by out of towners simply because the locals don’t know these places exist or because they’re too cheap to support them but have no problem supporting a random cereal bar downtown. Pathetic.

    1. Orphan Street

      You have never been to a village zoning board, planning board and village trustee meetings, have you? You’ve never read the minutes from those meetings on-line?
      Never seen the boards on television?

      They know exactly what they are doing. Born to do it. Been doing it since way back when.
      And that’s just without the Town.

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