COPAKE—The October 4 meeting of the Copake Planning Board drew a packed house with the proposed gas station/convenience store in Craryville as the main attraction.
About 80 people total, 50 associated with the Save Craryville community coalition were in attendance, many speaking in opposition to the proposal and some bearing signs.
The group’s focus is on the GRJH, Inc. project, which is before the Planning Board seeking site plan approval for a new Cobble Pond gas station/convenience store situated at the northwest corner of the four-way intersection of State Route 23, County Route 7 and Craryville Road. The 1.7-acre parcel on the north side of Route 23 is where the former Craryville Supermarket once stood, just east of the Craryville Post Office and west of the Craryville United Methodist Church.
The proposed 3,240 square-foot convenience store will have six fuel dispensers, two on each of three islands; access to the business is proposed from Route 23 and Craryville Road.
The town Zoning Board of Appeals has already approved a special use permit for the project.
A public hearing on the project has been open since November 2017. Early opposition to the proposal targeted the “dangerous” nature of the intersection and called for a traffic light there. A traffic study was required by the state Department of Transportation and was conducted by Creighton Manning Engineers hired by GRJH. The study found that intersection conditions do not meet minimum criteria for the installation of a traffic signal. The DOT has yet to weigh in on the study.
Save Craryville Director Jamie Carano issued a press release following the October 4 meeting. The release says that environmental and land use attorney David K. Gordon, who represents the Save Craryville coalition, told the Planning Board that the GRJH site plan is not in compliance with the new Copake Zoning Code, adopted by the town in July.
Mr. Gordon “presented a map of the proposed site overlaid with the requirements of the new code, which emphasizes ‘hamlet business zoning’ designed to implement a ‘main street environment’ for Craryville” and other Copake hamlets.
The GRJH project “fails to comply with either the letter or the spirit of the new law,” Mr. Gordon said, according to the release.
Key violations outlined by Attorney Gordon in the release included:
• Violation of both minimum and maximum setback requirements, which affect the “Main Street” feel of the development
• Concerns that the stormwater treatment system required by the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to protect petroleum hydrocarbon runoff into protected wetlands might lead to “overflow during storm conditions” that would flow directly into the wetland. “This must be evaluated very carefully by the Planning Board,” Mr. Gordon said.
He summed up the coalition’s position by noting that “This is literally a crossroads project for the Planning Board and for the Town of Copake. This development, if allowed to go forward as it is envisioned, will reverse the intent of the new zoning code because it is too big and too aesthetically inconsistent with Copake’s Hamlet Business Zoning, ‘Main Street,’ approach,” the release said.
Planning Board Chairman Bob Haight told The Columbia Paper in a follow-up phone call, that indeed the new zoning affects this project and the board is investigating the setback, parking space and other concerns enumerated by the attorney.
Mr. Haight said the board heard public comments for “a good hour.”
According to minutes of the meeting, other speakers’ concerns centered on noise, the environment, the project size, the failure of the traffic study to take into consideration increased traffic associated with the upcoming opening of another nearby business.
Dan Latinsky of Hillsdale, a Save Craryville activist and data scientist, presented his data analysis of the scope and scale of the project by Columbia County standards, the release said.
Using Google Maps, Mr. Latinsky determined the footprints of all 40 gas stations currently in existence in Columbia County. According to the Save Craryville press release, his analysis found “GRJH’s proposed development would not only be the largest personal car gas station in Columbia County, it would be twice as large as the average gas station in Columbia County.”
Mr. Haight said by phone, he attempted to set the record straight several times during the hearing noting that the project “is definitely not a truck stop.” The plans do not contain even one parking space for a tractor trailer, Mr. Haight told a speaker who questioned why a tractor trailer was drawn on the plans.
The truck is pictured in order to show the entry and exit points used by fuel delivery trucks, he explained in the meeting minutes.
Speakers in favor of the project said:
• The project will revitalize Craryville
• The site is currently an eyesore and a business there would visually improve the site
• Jobs would be created
• The town’s tax base would increase.
Mr. Haight said the number of jobs this project creates and its tax impact have nothing to do with the board’s decisions and no one on the board is trying to “push” for the project, as some had suggested.
In the minutes, the chairman said the board has been hearing comments regarding this project for almost a year even though some people have just heard about it.
The public hearing on the project will remain open at the board’s November 1 meeting and though no one associated with the applicant was present at the October meeting, the applicant’s presence has been requested at the November meeting, said Mr. Haight.
To contact Diane Valden email