COPAKE—As long as GRJH cleans up an old kerosene spill at its Craryville site, the company’s proposed gas station/convenience store can be built.
The project site is on the northwest corner of the four-way intersection of state Route 23, county Route 7 and Craryville Road in Craryville, a hamlet in the Town of Copake.
A large contingent of folks from Save Craryville, a community coalition that opposes the project, were on hand at the March 5 meeting of the Copake Planning Board to hear the board finally vote on whether or not to approve the GRJH, Inc. site plan for a 3,240 square-foot convenience store and six-fueling-nozzle gas station on a 1.7-acre parcel between the Craryville Post Office and the Craryville United Methodist Church.
During a discussion before the vote, board member Edward Sawchuk wanted to know if the Zoning Board of Appeals had knowledge of the [old] spill or contamination on the site when it issued its negative State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) declaration.
Planning Board Attorney Ken Dow said he believed that the spill had not yet been discovered when the declaration was made.
In light of the timing, Mr. Sawchuk called the negative declaration “premature” and “suspicious.” He also wanted the Planning Board to be responsible for determining whether or not the applicant fulfills its obligation to clean up the spill according to DEC guidelines, not the building inspector.
Mr. Dow told him the Planning Board has no enforcement authority, the building inspector does.
Prior to the vote on the controversial project, which has been under review by the board for more than two and a half-years, Mr. Dow read a nine-page resolution titled, “Determination of Approval of Site Plan and Conditions of Approval.” The board then voted 4 to 3 to approve the project’s site plan.
Planning Board Chairman Robert Haight, along with Deputy Chair Chris Grant, board members Marcia Becker and Steve Savarese voted “yes”; board members Julie Cohen, Edward Sawchuk and Jonathan Urban voted “no.”
The crowd was not happy.
The lengthy approval resolution recounted all the steps, considerations, documents and findings that have been part of the review from revision of the site plans to meet new code requirements to the state Department of Transportation determination that no traffic light or turn-lane was needed at the intersection.
Also contained in the resolution are conditions that have to be met before a certificate of occupancy can be issued by the town’s building inspector/code enforcement officer.
The applicant has to comply with conditions, directives and specifications set out in the letter from the town’s engineering consultants with regard to “Gasoline Distribution System—Safety Items.”
In connection to the “legacy contamination” found on the site, the applicant has to enter into a remediation agreement/work plan with the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The town’s building inspector will be copied on all DEC correspondence and will monitor compliance with the remediation plan (if any). Failure to enter into or comply with the agreement will result in a Certificate of Occupancy not being issued by the building inspector. “No C of O may be issued prior to DEC’s approval of the remediation actions… the building inspector shall have the authority to use all lawful means necessary to ensure compliance with the remediation plan.”
The easternmost business sign has to be relocated out of the front yard setback.
The Planning Board’s approval of the site plan can be revoked and rescinded upon the failure of the applicant to fully comply with all requirements or conditions
According to an emailed newsletter from Save Craryville, the group has filed two civil court actions called Article 78 proceedings against the Town of Copake Zoning Board of Appeals and GRJH, Inc. (Cobble Pond Farms).
A November 22, 2019 Article 78 is related to the abandonment of the Zoning Board’s environmental impact review. The second Article 78, filed December 13, 2019, is related to the expiration of GRJH’s special use permit. The proceedings challenge Building Inspector/Code Enforcement Officer Lee Heim’s July 1, 2019 determination that the proposed gas station’s special use permit had not expired and renewed Save Craryville’s requests that the ZBA rescind its negative declaration under state Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) and that the site plan review process be put on hold pending the resolution of the appeal.