Store foes say permit’s expired; not so, says town

COPAKE—A proposed gas station/convenience store in the Craryville hamlet has been under site plan review by the Copake Planning Board for more than a year and a half and remains as contentious as when the public hearing opened.

GRJH, Inc., established in 1995, is a privately-held wholesale gasoline and oil company in Millerton, Dutchess County. It proposes to build a new gas station/convenience store on the northwest corner of the state Route 23, county Route 7 and Craryville Road intersection.

The 1.7-acre site at the four-way intersection is where the former Craryville supermarket once stood, between the Craryville Post Office to the west and the Craryville United Methodist Church to the east.

The proposed convenience store is 3,240 square-feet and will have a total of six fuel-dispensing nozzles on three fuel pumps. Craryville is a hamlet in the northwest part of the Town of Copake.

At the Planning Board’s June 6 meeting, Attorney Zachary Mintz of the Zarin and Steinmetz law firm in White Plains, told the board during the public hearing, that the special use permit issued by the Zoning Board of Appeals has expired, according to Town Code.

The special use permit gives the applicant permission to put a gas station at the site, pending site plan approval by the Planning Board.

Speaking on behalf of Save Craryville, a community coalition opposing the project, Mr. Mintz said because the permit has expired, the Planning Board has no further jurisdiction to proceed with site plan review of the application.

He also argued that the State Environmental Quality Review Assessment (SEQRA) must be re-opened and the negative declaration of impact (which means no significant impact) must be rescinded because the applicant failed to disclose and the ZBA failed to take into account that the project is sited directly on an aquifer, which may have potential adverse environmental impacts.

But Town Attorney Ken Dow said case law does not allow for a negative SEQRA declaration to be rescinded after the issuance of a special permit.

“Case law says [a negative declaration] can only be rescinded up until the time action to issue a special use permit is taken,” Mr. Dow said.

When a man in the audience announced he wanted to give his two minutes of speaking time to allow Attorney Mintz to continue, Planning Board Chairman Bob Haight said, “This isn’t Congress” and would not allow it.

Project neighbor Barbara Smith wanted to know if the Planning Board had made any effort to discuss with the state Department of Transportation (DOT) its reasoning for accepting the applicant’s traffic study, which found no need for a traffic light at the intersection.

DOT engineer Lance Gorney issued a one-sentence finding: “The study did not show any major traffic issues and we have not further comments.”

“Your mandate is to protect the citizens of the community and this is a seriously flawed traffic study. Is there going to be a challenge or a question?” asked Mrs. Smith.

Save Craryville Director Jamie Carano read a list of six items that her group has asked questions about in the past eight months, without getting answers. A revised site plan, subsurface contamination, the independent engineer’s contract, revised septic placement, groundwater impact analysis and the visual impact report, were among the items.

Steve Sabitini told the board to err on the side of caution, to “safeguard that water.”

Matt Rogers said, “I live 1,000 feet from this thing. If there is ever an issue, I’m suing,” addressing the Planning Board.

When Town Supervisor Jeff Nayer, who was observing the meeting, asked him to calm down or Sheriff’s deputies would be called, Mr. Rogers stormed out yelling a profanity at the supervisor.

Board member Ed Sawchuk questioned if the special use permit had really expired. Attorney Dow said, “At present it is an open and valid permit unless the code enforcement officer (CEO) makes a determination to invalidate it.”

Mr. Nayer suggested that the board send a letter to the CEO about the question.

Board member Jon Urban said it seems the board and the audience “keep going back and forth on the same issues.” He wanted the board to address the items brought up by community members. “It doesn’t seem like a dialogue,” he said, asking to “get some resolution.”

Board member Chris Grant noted that some of the items, like the traffic study, have been decided upon by the state and its engineers. Hydrological issues will be among the items reviewed by the independent engineer the Planning Board has hired.

Attorney Dow reminded the board that its “ultimate obligation” is to go through the provisions of site plan review and, guided by those standards in that section of the code, ask, “Does the project meet this?”

Because the July Planning Board meeting falls on the Fourth of July, it has been rescheduled for Wednesday, July 10 at 7 p.m.

To contact Diane Valden email moc.r1561459360epapa1561459360ibmul1561459360oc@ne1561459360dlavd1561459360

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