The Village of New Paltz Planning Board last week officially declared itself lead agency for the SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review) process on the proposed Water Street Trails Hotel, a 28-room, three story inn on property located at 11 Water Street.
The Water Street Trails Hotel is the latest project by co-developers Ryan Giuliani and Jesse Halliburton, who previously opened the Woodstock Way Hotel. Halliburton is the owner and principal broker of Prime Real Estate Group in New Jersey, while Giuliani is president and co-founder of boutique hospitality firm Giuliani Social alongside his wife, Mary Giuliani.
The project was back before the Planning Board on Tuesday, December 6, returning just over a month after their previous visit. The proposal is roughly the same, though with an additional two rooms from the 26-room plan shared in early November, with an additional six parking spaces to bring the total to 36, and with a significantly smaller patio footprint that will result in the removal of fewer trees.
“Yesterday we went out to the site with our landscape architect and our surveyor, and also an arborist that we worked with in past…to inventory all the trees and plot them on the plans,” Halliburton said.
That visit, along with a prior visit by members of the Village’s Shade Tree Commission, resulted in the scaling back of the patio from 8,250 square feet to 6,100 square feet, which Giuliani said saved 22 trees initially earmarked for removal.
“We were very happy with it,” Giuliani said. “There are seven that we need to deal with, but out of the six of the seven, they were in really bad shape.”
Halliburton added that the developers planned to plant trees along the edge of the property “in honor of those we’ve lost.”
The addition of two rooms in plans updated on Tuesday, November 29 still; brings the total two rooms shy of the number in the original proposal.
“Just to be so clear, we started at 30 and then we backed it off to 26 thinking we didn’t have the room for the parking spaces that we needed,” said Halliburton, who added that they were able to increase the number to 28 without changing the footprint of the building.
The Water Street Trails Hotel will be built alongside the Wallkill River and the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, and will include replacing the sprawling former box factory currently standing on the .82-acre property with a three-story hotel with a little over 7,500-square feet per floor. A 340-square-foot kitchen for a small cafe and lounge is also part of the proposed new build.
The cafe, and the potential for parking and traffic issues, continues to be part of the discussion. The developers have described a cafe primarily geared toward guests of the inn, adding that New York State law would disallow them from keeping the public out if they planned to hold a liquor license. But town officials remain wary that the cafe could become popular with local residents.
“Locally, I would assume that once the hotel is established, that local residents and people wanting to come will realize that parking is limited and not available to the public and is there for the guests of the hotel,” Giuliani said.
Village of New Paltz Planning Board Attorney Ashley Torre said the developers still have to address criteria necessary in the village building code to be granted a special use permit, including one specifically geared toward hotels.
“It has a mechanism for calculating the maximum number of rooms, and it is limited in the number of the uses on the property,” Torre said. “So if it’s going to be considered a cafe or bar that requires its own minimum lot area, that’s something that will then impact the number of rooms that are allowed…But if it’s open to the public, my understanding is that it then needs to be considered its own entity or its own use within the building.”
Torre added that the Village may have the leeway to grant a variance on the required number of parking spaces for a cafe.
The property is part of the Gateway (G) District, which according to village zoning code, “corresponds with lands bounded by Wallkill Valley Rail Trail on the west, Water Street to the north and northeast, Mohonk Avenue to the east, Pencil Hill Road to the east and Plains Road to the east.”
Planning Board members have already referred the project to traffic consultant Carlito Holt a partner with White Plains-based planning, engineering and landscape architecture firm DTS Provident; and the developers are conducting a traffic study of their own.
Planning Board member Rich Souto said it was also important to study the impact of the proposed hotel and cafe on pedestrian traffic, though he said he was backing off on a prior recommendation of installing a sidewalk along the edge of the property along Water Street.
“I’m suggesting that pedestrian flow in and out of the property is also going to be not maybe as important, but important,” Souto said. “I was asking if pedestrian (traffic) was something that your engineer was going to look at, because I would definitely ask our engineer to advise us about it. It’s mostly about safety.”
The next meeting of the Village of New Paltz Planning Board is scheduled for Tuesday, December 20.