Foes not swayed by new store plans

COPAKE—Changes have been made to the plans for a controversial gas station/convenience store proposed in the Craryville hamlet.

Alicia Metz, the president of GRJH, Inc., a privately-held wholesale gasoline and oil company, appeared before the Copake Planning Board December 6 with revised site plans for the new gas station/convenience store that GRJH proposes to build on the northwest corner of the state Route 23, county Route 7 and Craryville Road intersection.

The convenience store size remains at 3,240 square feet on the 1.7-acre parcel, where the former Craryville supermarket once stood. Craryville is a hamlet in the northwest part of the Town of Copake.

The proposal, which has been under site plan review by the Planning Board and the subject of an ongoing public hearing for more than a year, has come under fire by neighbors and the Save Craryville community coalition for many reasons, including that the intersection is “dangerous” and that project is not in compliance with the revised Zoning Code adopted by the Copake Town Board in July.

A traffic study was required by the state Department of Transportation (DOT) and was conducted by Creighton Manning Engineers hired by GRJH. The study found that the intersection conditions do not meet minimum criteria for the installation of a traffic signal. The DOT has yet to weigh in on the study or issue the applicant a highway work permit. The study was part of that permit application.

Site plan changes unveiled at the December meeting to bring the project in line with new zoning code regulations/guidelines include a revised placement of the building on the site. The building has been moved closer to the intersection as setbacks allow and the fuel pumps are now situated behind the building looking from the state Route 23 side.

Planning Board Chairman Bob Haight told The Columbia Paper by phone this week that the placement of the structure and the pumps has been “flopped” and based on information provided in the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) document, only six fueling nozzles total will be allowed. Prior plans were for 12.

The number of parking spaces have been significantly reduced as has the amount of asphalt pavement on site. The new code calls for a maximum of 50% pavement and the new GRJH plan comes in at 46% (31,605 square feet) of “impervious” surface area.

The reduced amount of impervious surface also creates less storm water runoff, said Mr. Haight. “It helps out with storm water management.”

Outside lighting has been adjusted so as not to spill over onto other properties, he said.

The height of the vegetation on the Route 23 and Craryville Road sides of the building will be kept low to allow maximum sight lines and sight distances for drivers entering or exiting the site. The width and placement of the driveways on Route 23 and Craryville Road remain the same.

One aspect of the building that seemingly remains in need of revision is the slope/pitch of the roof which, according to the new code, should contribute to a “sense of neighborhood” and be “compatible with existing development,” said Planning Board member Marcia Becker, reading from the code book.

“Every building is different” in the hamlet, said Mr. Haight, noting it is not the town’s intent “to over-regulate or discourage creativity, variety or innovation.”

By phone, Mr. Haight noted that the new site plan “is a total overhaul” of the original and that applicant has been very cooperative as far as the things the Planning Board has asked her to do.

Reconvening the public hearing at the December meeting, Mr. Haight asked the audience of about 50 to limit their comments to two minutes and to address only the building or safety issues. The Zoning Board of Appeals has already approved a Special Use Permit, which grants the applicant conceptual right to put a gas station/convenience store on the site.

A man identifying himself as Dan of Hillsdale said the applicant’s one-story structure is not commensurate with surrounding buildings that are at least two-stories.

Attorney Brian Henchy, who represents project neighbors, Barbara and Steve Smith, said the food service portion of the business is not compatible with a convenience store use.

Attorney David Gordon, who represents Save Craryville, said that though the new site plan moves the project in a positive direction, there are still problems with setbacks. He said parking spaces and driveways cannot be within setbacks.

He also said that if the applicant would “lose the restaurant use” the project would be “much better off.” He added that the structure needs a pointed, gabled roof not a flat roof on which utilities can be placed.

Amy from Hillsdale said that in light of recent reports about climate warming and impacts on the Northeast, she would argue that neither gas nor diesel fuels should be sold at the site.

The public hearing lasted about an hour and will reconvene at the next Planning Board meeting, January 3 at 7 p.m.

To contact Diane Valden email

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