The Water Street Trails Hotel was back before the Village of New Paltz Planning Board for the first time last week in several months, with developers hoping they’ve addressed some of the logistical issues relating to a challenging property.
The proposed 28-room, three story inn on property located at 11 Water Street is the latest project by co-developers Jesse Halliburton and Ryan Giuliani, 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 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. A proposed 8,250-square foot patio was reduced in scope to 6,100 square feet last December, saving 22 trees initially earmarked for removal.
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.”
The Wallkill Valley Land Trust oversees the 22.5-mile Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, which winds through Ulster County from Gardiner to the City of Kingston, running through New Paltz, Rosendale and the Town of Ulster.
At a meeting of the Planning Board held on Tuesday, August 1, some members of the public shared concerns about traffic and safety relating to the development.
“We are very concerned about the extremely dangerous intersection that exists already where Water Street meets Mohawk Avenue meets Plains Road,” said Jaimee Uhlenbrock. “There’s a blind curve, and anyone coming in one direction or the other on that blind curve could actually have a very fatal accident.”
In an April 17 letter to the Planning Board, New Paltz Fire Department Chief Cory Wirthmann shared his own concerns about the development as it relates to emergency services. Wirthmann and Department of Public Works Superintendent Bleu Terwilliger attempted to simulate an emergency response with a fire truck using the specifications detailed in the then-current draft of the proposal.
“We made several attempts to maneuver the public way from several directions in a manner that would mimic an emergency response and placement of fire apparatus,” Wirthmann wrote. “Additionally we attempted to turn into the areas identified as entrance and exits. In all scenarios the constricted roadway made it difficult to move the apparatus around and in some cases made turning impossible without potentially hitting a curb. Many times throughout the trials other cars/trucks were unable to pass us given the limited maneuverability. This only showed us that there would be no way for two pieces of apparatus to pass each other which would greatly limit the number of fire engines proximity to the building which is an essential part of strategy during an emergency event.”
In a July 11 response to Wirthmann’s letter, the project team from Creighton Manning Engineering, LLP noted that changes to the proposal including relocating off-street parking from the east side of the lot to the building face, and the installation of back-to-back mountable curb along the site’s frontage should allow for oversteering of large vehicles like fire trucks.
“In addition, the 26-foot-wide drive aisle onsite will accommodate the 15-ft 9-in width of the fire apparatus with outriggers extended,” said the Creighton Manning letter.
During the August 1 meeting, Halliburton — who attended virtually — said the changes should also alleviate concerns about a blind curve.
“The footprint of our structure is probably just a little bit more than half of what’s there right now,” Halliburton said. “And it’s set back closer to the trail, which opens up a complete sightline making that blind curve no longer blind.”
Halliburton also addressed comments made by local resident Kim Squillace about the removal of trees from the property.
“We’re not taking any of the Wallkill Valley (Land Trust) trees down, we had no plan to ever do that,” he said. “We are tree huggers at heart. We do maintain the health of our trees on the current properties that we own and we want those trees to continue to provide shading, we want those trees to be healthy, we want them to also provide a natural habitat to the habitat that’s already there.”
There are still questions that have yet to be answered in the plans, including whether developers will be able to convince the Wallkill Valley Land Trust to allow the hotel property to seamlessly connect to the rail trail, as well as whether visitors to the hotel would follow the recommended route when leaving the property on foot rather than walking along the road to get to the sidewalk.
“I think the majority of the people that are staying with our hotel are not going to touch their cars and walk out the back side of the property up onto the rail trail,” said Giuliani.
Developers are hopeful that pedestrian concerns could be mitigated by clear signage directing hotel guests to the preferred pathway.
Some of the proposal’s details are still on hold while developers finalize the footprint and look of hotel, including various engineering specifications, drainage, and a lighting plan. But some of that unfinished business may be completed by the time the project developers return to the Planning Board, likely during their September 19 meeting.
“I think we’re close,” said Planning Board member Rich Souto.