Gas station foes say old records raise new issues

COPAKE—Hard evidence was presented to the Copake Planning Board that the site of a new proposed controversial gas station/convenience store in Craryville was previously a gas station many years ago.

Prior anecdotal claims that a gas station existed on the 1.7 acre site at the northwest corner of the state Route 23, County Route 7, Craryville Road four-way intersection, led the Planning Board to call for the applicant to perform a ground radar test there to determine if any underground fuel tanks remained. The test was done several months ago and no tanks were detected.

GRJH, Inc., a privately-held wholesale gasoline and oil company in Millerton, Dutchess County, proposes to build a new gas station/convenience store at the site where the former Craryville supermarket once stood, between the Craryville Post Office to the west and the Craryville United Methodist Church to the east. Craryville is a hamlet in the northwest part of the Town of Copake.

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.

During the continuation of the public hearing on the matter at the September 5 Planning Board meeting, Hillsdale resident Leigh McBride presented a history of the GRJH site, based on her research along with Richard McCormack, using County Clerk’s Office deed records, certificates of incorporation, archived newspaper articles and advertisements, historical photographs and the memories of longtime residents.

“Ms. McBride noted that in 1936 Clayton Carl was the proprietor of the Craryville Garage. In 1947 it was deeded to his wife. She went on to note that in 1960 the property was deeded to Doris Carl and in 1961 was conveyed to Sam and Roberta Flaum who operated it as the Craryville Garage and [was] simultaneously operated by Ezra Link as a gas station,” according to the meeting minutes. She also said “that the lift appears to still be present on the property” and she had concerns that there was still hydraulic oil present at the site and suggested that soil samplings be done, the minutes said.

Planning Board Chairman Bob Haight said in a phone call following the meeting, that he had confirmed with “old timers” that the gas pumps stood out front and said the board is “now debating” whether to go ahead with soil testing.

Also at the meeting, Timothy Rode, an attorney for Save Craryville, a community coalition that opposes the project, told the board that on behalf of nine Craryville/Hillsdale residents an appeal to the building inspector’s July determination that the Special Use Permit has not expired was filed with the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA).

The Special Use Permit has expired in Mr. Rode’s opinion, and the appeal asks the ZBA to re-open the state environmental review (SEQRA) process due to new information that has come to light. He said that under New York State Town Law Section 267A this appeal automatically stays any proceedings in furtherance of the Special Use Permit, which includes the Planning Board’s site plan review, the meeting minutes said.

Also among the copious additional information received, was more data from Save Craryville Hydrogeologist Paul Rubin to substantiate his claim that there is a sand and gravel aquifer beneath the proposed site.

Following public comments, Planning Board Chair Haight made a motion to close the public hearing for good, rather than adjourn it until the next meeting as he has done for the past two years.

Mr. Haight said by phone that he made the motion because the board has repeatedly heard the same things from the public over the past few months and the applicant did not have any new information to present. “At this point there’s nothing new,” he said.

In his comments on the matter at the meeting, board member Jon Urban said the new information regarding the prior use of the applicant’s property presented at the meeting was relevant.

Though Mr. Haight noted that new information can still be sent in even if the public hearing was closed, Town Attorney Ken Dow said that once the public hearing is closed—submissions are closed as well, the minutes said.

Board member Ed Sawchuk “pointed out that the information which was received [from] the public took a lot of work and was a commitment from the community done voluntarily. He feels this is a substantial financial commitment made by them and is a battle of the experts.” He wants the town engineer to take a deeper look into the issues brought up, according to the minutes.

Board member Julie Cohen did not see the harm in keeping “the hearing open one more month to give everyone time to digest the information that was brought up.”

A roll call vote on Mr. Haight’s motion ended in a three to three tie, with Mr. Haight and members Marcia Becker and Steve Savarese voting in favor of closing the public hearing and Mr. Sawchuk, Mr. Urban and Ms. Cohen opposed. Member Chris Grant was absent.

The public hearing on the GRJH application will remain open at the October 3 meeting.

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