Former College Diner likely to be torn down

The College Diner recently closed after many years of feeding folks in New Paltz. (Photo by Lauren Thomas)

Those who have been holding out hope that the site of the old College Diner would again become a spot for grabbing breakfast any time of day may now release that hope, because it’s not going to happen. Anyone who feels that what New Paltz lacks is a branch of Hudson Valley Credit Union, on the other hand, may want to start getting excited, because that’s what’s now proposed for the site at 500 Main Street.

Hudson Valley Credit Union was founded as the IBM Poughkeepsie Employees Federal Credit Union in 1963, but the rules around who can join one of these nonprofit financial institutions have been considerably loosened since the days when only employees of a certain business could participate. Several name and charter changes have occurred in the decades since.

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Engineer Roger Keating told Town Planning Board members at their August 9 meeting that the 2.1-acre parcel actually includes the house behind the diner as well; a half-acre portion of the land would be subdivided to accommodate that residence as a separate property. There’s a very large highway easement at the front of the parcel, which limits what could be put close to the road. The plan is to knock down the diner and build a 4,000-square-foot credit union branch closer to the street, complete with a detached drive-through kiosk around the back. Part of the site development would be to install curbs along South Ohioville Road; drivers at this point can roll on up at any point, but that will be limited.

The detached drive-through lane is a bid to get a waiver to allow that service at all. Such a waiver can be granted by unanimous approval of Planning Board members or by the Town Council if all Planning Board members do not agree. Keating explained that tellers inside the main structure would work with patrons who remain in their cars with the engines running by means of a series of underground tubes. The system is around the back to “reduce pedestrian interactions,” which is one of the reasons why drive-through lanes are considered problematic. The other is that people rarely turn off their engines while waiting, as there’s no law requiring that when in a passenger vehicle. Members of the Zoning Board of Appeals also have the power to toss out zoning rules for a particular project. It’s not entirely clear how a free-standing drive-through falls into the zoning code; those interpretations are the responsibility of one of the town’s building inspectors to determine. As it now stands, this would be two teller lanes and a spot for a drive-up ATM; another teller machine would be located in the lobby for 24-hour access.

Cleaning up problems with the site is part of the proposal. For example, the old septic system in the wetland buffer is going to be removed entirely, and a new one installed in a safer location. The massive existing parking lot also encroaches on the wetland buffer; the edges will be pulled back and pedestrian access to the Empire State Trail will be installed. Unlike many developers, credit union officials aren’t looking for a waiver on the requirement to build sidewalks whenever a subdivision is improved. Instead, they are prepared to put in 500 feet of sidewalk along Ohioville Road to comply with the requirement.