The Ulster Town Board last week voted 4-0 to recommend the town’s planning board deny a special use permit to Mohammad Waheed for Moe’s Motor Cars, a proposed used car sales and storage lot at 454 Hurley Avenue. The Town Board was asked by the planners to review the application before making a determination on the SUP due to a public outcry over the proposal.
The issue was discussed at a handful of public hearings, which pitted Waheed on one side and several neighbors on the other.
Had Moe’s Motor Cars met favor with the town, it would have featured storage for as many as 62 cars on a 44,500-square foot lot that previously held the Empire Mart and Deli, decimated by a fire in February 2013. The lot is next to the former John A. Coleman Catholic High School.
While the Town Board’s resolution recommending denial of the special use permit acknowledged that automobile sales are a specially permitted use within an office and management (OM) district as defined by town zoning law, officials ultimately claimed that Waheed’s application fell short of the criteria in which they’d feel obliged to recommend granting the request.
Among the issues outlined in the resolution of denial is a claim that Waheed failed to propose the construction of a fixed building structure, or a bathroom, water line or sewer line onto the property, a “violation of the state code” which “poses a public safety risk.”
Elsewhere, the denial recommendation claimed that an auto sales facility “is not consistent with pending proposals on other nearby properties,” and that Waheed had not established a “reasonable need” for a business like Moe’s Motor Cars in the neighborhood.
The resolution was read in its entirety by Town Supervisor James E. Quigley, III during the meeting held on Thursday, February 17.
“The applicant has not established that the disadvantages to the neighborhood from the location of such specialty permitted use of the subject property are outweighed by the advantage to be gained either by the neighborhood or the Town,” said Quigley.
The meeting was held in person and streamed live via Zoom. Waheed was in remote attendance during the entirety of the meeting, but shut off his connection after the council voted to deny the special use permit. He could not be reached for comment.
During a January public hearing, several neighbors of the property spoke out against Waheed’s plans, including the leaders of two nearby churches.
Pastor Pete Shults of Cross Point Fellowship at 459 Hurley Avenue said that the applicant had tried to make it work, but still felt Moe’s Motor Cars was not a good fit for the neighborhood.
“I do want to acknowledge that Mr. Waheed has made a lot of effort to try to accommodate the town, and I appreciate his approach to it,” Shults said. “He’s done his best, he’s gone as far as he can. But we believe that visually that is not in keeping with the gateway into Hurley. It’s a part of the Town of Ulster, and we believe respectfully it’s going to be an eyesore.”
The Rev. Henry Albrechtsen of the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church at 470 Hurley Avenue also opposed the project. “I am not in favor of this project overall simply because I do not see the benefit to the community,” said Albrechtsen. “Within a year with all the changes in the weather…it can easily begin to disintegrate and look even more like a junkyard.”
At that same meeting, Waheed said he believed the Town Board was surprised by the opposition to his plans. “I’m not opening up a strip club, I’m not opening an abortion clinic,” he said. “It’s a used car dealership, and I’m sure the (Town) Board members were very shocked to hear about such an uprise with this.”
Waheed then said that the Town code would have allowed him to propose a much less appealing business than he has. “I could build a gigantic auto body shop here with fumes, everywhere, mechanics making noise,” he said. “I could do that. I have the legal right. I don’t even need a special permit.”
Last week’s unanimous vote to recommend denial of the special use permit did not include Deputy Supervisor Clayton Van Kleeck, who was absent from the meeting.
The next meeting of the Ulster Town Board is scheduled for Thursday, March 3.