The consultants representing Trans-Hudson Management Inc. and BFB New Paltz, LLC in their eight-year-long bid to develop the property at 12 North Putt Corners Road in New Paltz have opted for a strategy in two parts: they have sued the town on the grounds that the new zoning affecting that property was passed illegally, and they have submitted a revised site plan that complies with that zoning and addresses some concerns that have dogged this project for years.
In legal papers filed January 24, 2020, attorney Katherine Zalantis provided a laundry list of ways that the rezoning of the Gateway District was allegedly illegal. In addition to claiming that the procedures laid out in state environmental review law weren’t followed and that the zoning conflicts with the Town’s comprehensive plan, Zalantis asserts that “reverse spot zoning” occurred, reasoning that this must be the case because “the other parcels in the . . . zone are either fully developed or not capable of being developed.” Town Planning Board members are accused of a “calculated delay” to give Town Board members time to pass that zoning; the environmental review of this property was completed in 2017, and the new zoning was not passed until 2019. Two pages of the filing are focused on the requirement that buildings have two stories.
The developers somehow secured a variance from the two-story requirement, which is an emerging zoning standard intended to concentrate development and allow for the preservation of open space. The new submission on September 20 shows four single-story buildings, but otherwise complies with the very zoning that is alleged as being illegally passed. The four buildings are sited closer to the two roads adjacent to this corner lot, with parking behind that cluster. Two of the buildings would be for retail uses, one for a restaurant, and the other a bank. The Empire State Trail would be rerouted through the property, rather than going around the corner as it does now; users of the trail would have public restrooms and 19 dedicated parking spaces at this location. While a request for a variance to allow a food drive-through lane was withdrawn, this plan shows the bank with drive-up service lanes.
One of the more contentious issues around this project has been the amount of fill that would be trucked in; the 27,000 cubic yards called for in earlier plans was once translated into 13,000 truckloads by architect Justin Dates, who defended the need for that much fill when the site plan review began on September 27, 2017. The construction of the Thruway in the ‘50s involved digging up material from along Route 299 on this property. “It’s down in a hole,” Dates said at the time, and “would not be sustainable.” That was the reason to resist reducing the amount of fill back then, but four years later the developers have reconsidered that stance. The current plan calls for only 3,300 cubic yards of fill, resulting in those buildings being three feet below the level of the street.
Dates called out other changes to the impacts: total square footage would drop from 22,000 to 17,000 square feet including the public restrooms, parking would be cut from 126 to 102, runoff is reduced, open space increased and the peak traffic trips would drop from 237 to 150 in an hour. Town consultants believe the number of parking spots could be reduced still more. Water usage for this new plan would rise markedly, from 2,486 gallons per day to a range of 5,330-8,000 gallons daily.
The increased water usage hinges on securing hookups to municipal water and sewer systems. That would entail expanding the adjacent Town water and sewer districts, which are dependent upon the Village systems. Ultimately, it’s the Village Board making the decision. Developers may remember Tim Rogers, who served on this Planning Board when the Trans-Hudson application was first reviewed. Now the village’s mayor, Rogers is attentive to the capacity and performance of systems that are in many cases older than any living resident of the community. The increased number of gallons might give any municipal manager pause, but the water loop recommended by Town engineer Andy Willingham might be appealing because it loops of pipes provide for higher pressure and fewer instances of water tinged brown by dislodged particles.
Board members referred the building designs to Kurt Sutherland, the architect whose comments were instrumental in what McDonald’s looks like now.
An updated traffic analysis is pending, and once it’s received board members can decide if they need to revisit the declaration of environmental significance that was made in 2017, or if it should stand.