New store review gets down to nitty-gritty

COPAKE—Despite the unrelenting opposition, the site plan review of a controversial proposed gas station/convenience store in the Craryville hamlet appears to be gaining ground.

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

Save Craryville is a community coalition that opposes the project.

At the Copake Planning Board’s August 1 meeting, a report from the Albany engineering firm of Weston and Sampson, PE, LS, LA, PC, hired by the Town to assist the Planning Board in reviewing certain technical aspects of the project, was received and discussed.

Most notably, the engineering firm reviewed all the correspondence and supporting documentation from hydrology experts hired by both the applicant and Save Craryville. “We conclude that the proposed GRJH Craryville Gas Station has provided the proper precautions to minimize potential impacts to the surrounding environmental resources, and does not present a concern to local groundwater and nearby wetlands,” the Weston and Sampson firm wrote.

Specifically the firm took issue with a finding by Paul Rubin of Hydroquest, the hydrologist hired by Save Craryville.

“It is evident that the project site is underlain by glacial till and dense silty sand, not sand and gravel as claimed by Mr. Rubin. Glacial till and dense silty sand is less permeable and would tend to retard the movement of subsurface petroleum contamination as compared to sand and gravel,” wrote the engineers, adding, as pointed out by Jean Patota, PG, GRJH’s expert, “petroleum properties and behaviors are thoroughly understood and there are well-established methods of investigation and remediation that would be implemented if a spill were to occur.”

Planning Board Chairman Bob Haight noted it is “not exactly the case” that a wetland and stream is on the project site as asserted by Mr. Rubin. Instead it is “a ditch leading to a Department of Transportation storm drain.” He said the area appeared to be “wetter” because the storm drain had not been cleaned. “There is no wetland or stream on the property.”

With regard to outdoor lighting, the engineers noted “no light trespass” onto neighboring properties except in a small area on the north property line, which borders on farmland.

In its review of stormwater management, the firm recommended that “a knife gate valve” be installed “on the storm line prior to discharging the site. This measure provides another safeguard for containing a potential fuel spill on-site. In the event of a spill, the T-handle on the valve could be depressed, closing the valve and stopping stormwater flows off-site—giving time to mitigate the spill before it impacts any other property.”

Chairman Haight said he and the board endorsed the installation of the knife gate valve, calling it “a safeguard that’s needed.”

With regard to the gasoline distribution system—safety items, the engineers provided a long list of national and state technical standards the system must comply with, as do all retail gasoline stations.

Alicia Metz, president of GRJH, Inc., who was present at the August 1 meeting, noted that in the past month, after requesting and receiving additional information, the Department of Transportation had signed off on the traffic study and determined there is no need for a left-hand turn lane or a traffic light at the intersection.

She also noted that the Columbia County Planning Board found that this proposed project has no significant county-wide or inter-community impacts.

Planning Board member Marcia Becker said that in considering whether the new proposed building is compatible with surrounding structures under General Commercial Design Standards, building scale is a crucial factor.

She read off a list of surrounding buildings and their corresponding square-footage: Phil Gellert’s apartment house, 3,124; Bert’s Inn, 4,458; the former Post Office, 1,333; Craryville firehouse, 26,640; Random Harvest, 2,880 and the proposed convenience store, 3,240. She concluded that the proposed building is in line with the scale of surrounding structures.

During the public hearing portion of the meeting, Save Craryville Attorney Daniel Richmond called for a more complete Phase I Environmental Site Assessment. He reiterated the fact that there is a belief that there was once a gas station on that site. Mr. Richmond disagreed with Mr. Haight’s statement that the Phase I is to protect the buyer of a property, noting “you have to identify contamination before you start disturbing land.” He suggested that his requests for Phase I and II assessments be “run by” the board’s engineer and he also asked that the engineer be sent a letter from Save Craryville’s Oakwood Environmental Associates regarding what appears to be a flooded area to the west of the property, and the Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP).

Barbara Smith of Hillsdale repeated her concerns that the traffic study was seriously flawed.

Susan DeVoss, formerly of Copake, said she was aware of people who lived in the area in 1943, who remember a gas station being situated there.

Richard McCormack of Hillsdale referred to two studies indicating the area beneath the proposed site includes an unconsolidated sand and gravel aquifer having a very high hydrogeologic sensitivity.

Two speakers questioned the operation of the knife gate valve.

The next Planning Board meeting takes place Thursday, September 5 at 7 p.m. Review of the GRJH application and the public hearing will continue.

To contact Diane Valden email

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