New Paltz Village Planning Board members have another very large project that they will be reviewing in the coming months: a hotel, restaurant, offices and underground parking proposed for the 2.4-acre lot next to Village Hall that’s known as the “pit.” The application was filed last summer, but now Luis Martinez and his Lalo Group would like to move forward with the review.
The pit is across Hasbrouck Avenue from Hasbrouck Park and extends northward behind the village-town municipal buildings along Plattekill Avenue on the eastern side and the Mountain Laurel school complex on the western edge of the property. The northern boundary butts up against the municipal parking lot. The nickname comes from the fact that there’s a drop of more than 30 feet from the highest point to the lowest. Once the trees and animals are cleared out, this project would be comprised of a 50-room hotel; a second building housing related services including a spa, restaurant, cafe, banquet hall and conference space; and an additional three-story building with some 17,000 square feet of retail on the first floor and roughly 34,000 square feet of offices above.
Access to the lot would come in the form of a private access road that would run behind the municipal complex, with entrances on Plattekill and Hasbrouck avenues. The entire business park would rest atop two levels of loading docks and parking for 386 autos, 21 more than what’s required in the code for these combined uses.
Attorney John Capello acknowledged the scrutiny needed in this review, saying that the developer is expecting to prepare an environmental impact statement to address the environmental impacts of this project. Eager to move things along, Capello said that the developer’s team is ready to propose a scope for that document, rather than have that document originate from the volunteer Planning Board members.
Board attorney Rick Golden critiqued the environmental assessment form as being vague and in need of updating, but indicated that there’s enough information for this board to declare the intention to become the lead agency reviewing this project. Despite the shortcomings Golden found — missing square footage figures and answers filled in as “to be determined” when a best guess is the minimum expected — the attorney was also easy with starting to complete part two of the EAF, in which board members categorize impacts by magnitude. Part three is used to evaluate the significance of the environmental impacts, which in turn helps to guide the scope of the environmental impact statement. Anything that’s deemed significant must be mitigated, which in theory if handled correctly means that any environmental damage is a wash.
Planning Board member Rachel Lagodka is already thinking ahead to those issues, noting that the concept plan that’s been filed seems to show the stream running through the Peace Park being paved over as part of this project. Aiding the developer in identifying an area of concern, Lagodka said that habitat corridors and a buffer between this project and Hasbrouck Park should both be considered. Lagodka also suggested that a balloon test — hoisting some up to give a sense of the height and mass of the proposed buildings — should be conducted as soon as possible to allow for a more informed community discussion. Lagodka said that the steep slope makes it difficult otherwise to visualize how high they would rise above the trees, if at all.
With the notice of intent being circulated, board members will be able to assume lead agency status at their June 1 meeting and begin their review in earnest.