Foes say store plan too flawed to proceed

COPAKE—Opposition to a proposed convenience store/gas station in Craryville is not letting up and is now planning to organize.

GRJH, Inc., has an application before the Copake Planning Board seeking site plan approval for a new Cobble Pond gas station/convenience store at the northwest corner of the intersection on the 1.7-acre parcel where the old Craryville supermarket once stood. Craryville is a hamlet in the Town of Copake.

The proposed 3,240 square-foot convenience store will have six fuel dispensers–two on each of three islands–and access to the business is proposed from State Route 23 and Craryville Road.

The Copake Planning Board heard additional public comments against the project at its September 6 meeting.

The public hearing on the matter has been open since November 2017 and Planning Board Chair Bob Haight told The Columbia Paper Tuesday he expects it to remain open for at least two more months.

The applicant was not present at the September 6 meeting, but several residents spoke in opposition to the project and the Planning Board received written communications from residents who could not attend.

One of the letters was from project neighbors Barbara and Steve Smith, who live on Craryville Road and believe the intersection is dangerous. The letter addressed a traffic assessment study conducted by Creighton Manning Engineers and submitted in June. The firm was hired by GRJH to perform the study, which was required by the state Department of Transportation (DOT). The study found that intersection conditions do not meet minimum criteria for the installation of a traffic signal.

In the August 24 letter to DOT Regional Traffic Engineer Ed Goff, Mr. and Mrs. Smith say they are writing as representatives of about 80 concerned residents who use the intersection and have signed a petition stating “there are currently major public safety concerns at this intersection that will only worsen” with project approval “without DOT intervention, i.e., a traffic signal.”

Attorney Brian Henchy of Freeman Howard of Hudson, hired by the Smiths and others, reviewed the study along with his clients, arriving at the opinion that “the study is seriously flawed” for the following reasons:

*The study was conducted off-season (May) and neglected to account for increased seasonal traffic in the summer, fall and winter

*The study was conducted on quiet days of the week (Wednesday, Thursday)

*Traffic counters were only placed south and west of the intersection, omitting calculations for north and eastbound traffic

*The study did not factor in two new businesses east of the intersection and the effects of a planned expansion at Catamount

*The study should have averaged off-season with busier season results and weekend traffic

*A Taconic Hills School District bus stops at the project entrance/exit locations on Route 23 “creating a very dangerous condition with additional vehicle stops/starts and students entering the roadway”

*Despite a 35 mph posted speed limit on Craryville Road cars continue to travel the road at excessive speeds, putting them on a possible collision course with trucks delivering fuel to the gas station.

According to the meeting minutes public comment made at the September 6 Planning Board meeting included:

*Concern that there would be an increase in truck traffic and that this would be a truck stop. Mr. Haight advised that there are no tractor trailer parking spaces on the application but there will be a tractor trailer making fuel deliveries.

*Concern over the way the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) was performed by the Zoning Board of Appeals and the fact that only abutting neighbors were notified of the project. The speaker had an issue with the size and scale of the project and felt it will have a huge impact on Craryville.

Town Attorney Ken Dow explained at the meeting that it is within the Planning Board’s scope to review and determine that certain conditions are met before the project can proceed. If the applicant does not meet those conditions the project can be denied and the applicant cannot move forward. The attorney explained that the ZBA approved a Special Use Permit which gives the applicant conceptual right to put a service station/convenience store on the site.

The application is now before the Planning Board for site plan review. If the applicant does not meet the standards, the project can be denied, but the Planning Board cannot go back and pull the fundamental Special Use Permit, Mr. Dow said according to the minutes.

The project has received Board of Health approval and the applicant is awaiting DOT approval of the traffic study, which is part of the site work permit needed from the DOT. Once that is received a complete package will be sent to the Columbia County Planning Board for review. Public comment on the site itself will be incorporated into the Planning Board’s site plan considerations.

In the meantime, a new group called Save Craryville is emerging. The “grassroots group” is made up of “local residents seeking to inform, organize and engage the public on this issue,” according to an email received by The Columbia Paper.

The group planned “an inform and organize meeting in a nearby barn” Thursday, September 13 from 7 to 9 p.m.”

The group is on Facebook at SaveCraryville and has a website: SaveCraryville.org.

An attempt to reach organizers by deadline was unsuccessful.

To contact Diane Valden email

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