Dec 6, 2018 | Save Craryville Letter presented to Copake Planning Board - Attorney David K. Gordon

DAVID K. GORDON, Attorney and Counselor at Law


December 6, 2018

Hon. Robert Haight, Chairman Town of Copake Planning Board 230 Mt. View Road
Copake, New York 12516

Re: GRJH Gas Station Proposal
Dear Mr. Haight and Members of the Planning Board:

This office represent the citizens group Save Craryville. We understand that GRJH has revised its site plan proposal and submitted a new set of plans. We have received the new set of plans, dated November 26, 2018, just a few days ago. We offer the following preliminary comments on the revised layout.

As an initial matter, the new plans are, literally, a substantial step in the right direction.
In the prior plan, the main building was nowhere near the roads, which is a requirement of the zoning code as well as a necessity for village-scale development. The new plans move the building to a substantially better, and compliant, location on the site. However, even in light of the improvements, the plan is still noncompliant with the zoning code and with other essential elements of hamlet design. The Planning Board should correct for all these.

Site design

a. Setbacks

While the new layout has made progress toward complying with the setbacks, the plans still show a driving lane, several parking spaces, and a dumpster enclosure within the minimum setback areas. The zoning code has a specific requirement for vehicle fueling stations: “The area for use by motor vehicles, except access drives thereto, as well as any structures, shall not encroach on any dimensional requirements in Section 232-8A.” § 232-16.13(B). The exception in the code for access drives allows, for a driveway to cross the front setback, as it must to provide access to the site from the road. However, there is no allowance for the access road to continue lengthwise through the side and rear setbacks, which would essentially allow the setbacks to be devoted to roadways – the exact opposite of the intent of the cited protection in the code. The applicant must further revise the plan to remove all structures and paved areas from the setback areas.

b. Restaurant

The Floor Plan in the new plan set shows a kitchen and dining room, which indicate that the applicant is proposing a sit-down restaurant use along with the convenience store. The restaurant appears to encompass more than half of the building’s floor area.

This is the first specification that a sit down restaurant is planned for the project. The Zoning Board of Appeals did not consider a restaurant use when conducting the project’s SEQRA review or issuing the special use permit, raising the specter of unplanned and unreviewed environmental impacts.

Among other things, the site does not have enough parking area for a restaurant. The parking requirement for a restaurant use is 15 spaces per 1,000 square feet of floor space (plus employee spaces), or more than 24 spaces here. § 232-13(A)(6). The restaurant should be removed from the plans so that parking does not need to increase, as there seems to be little room on the site for additional parking.

Additionally, the septic system capacity would need to be reevaluated for a restaurant use.

c. Parking

The Site Requirements table on the Site Layout and Utility Plan states that required parking is 9 spaces, and that the plan provides 14 spaces. The applicant calculated 2.75 spaces per 1,000 square feet of floor space to compute a minimum of 9 spaces. Actually, the code calls for 2.75 spaces per 1,000 square feet for retail uses, plus one space for each employee. § 232-13(A)(4), (11). The employee spaces must be added to the required minimum.

d. Height

The Hamlet Business district allows a maximum building height of 35 feet. § 232-8. The plans do not show a height measurement for the building or fueling canopy. The table of Site Requirements erroneously states the maximum height is 40 feet and states that the project will be “<40’.” The maximum height must be correctly noted, and the Planning Board must ensure that all structures on the site comply.

e. Roof pitch/style

The zoning code provides the following requirement: “All roofs shall be pitched with a minimum pitch of 5” vertical rise for each 12” horizontal run and have a roof overhang of traditional proportions on all structures.” § 232-21(J)(18)(e). The current design shows a flat-topped roof, which would not comply with the requirement that “[a]l roofs shall be pitched.” The design must be changed to a sloped roof.

In addition, the code requires that “[r]oof shapes, slopes and cornices are consistent with the prevalent types in the area.” § 232-21(J)(18)(a)[1]. Accordingly, in light of the architectural vernacular in the Craryville area, a gable roof should be utilized.

The flat roof should also be withdrawn because it will be used to site utility fixtures. Aside from being architecturally inconsistent with the hamlet, this modern commercial design is especially problematic because the roof will be easily visible from the adjacent land to the north, which is much higher than the project site.

f. Façade

The zoning code requires: “Buildings shall be designed so that entrance doors and windows, rather than blank walls, garages, side walls or storage areas, face the street.” § 232-21(J)(18)(b)[1]. The applicant has included a door on the Route 23 side of the store, but the Craryville Road side should also be designed with an entrance door.

g. Sign

The zoning code prescribes a maximum size of 24 square feet for a freestanding business sign. § 232-14(D). The sign sketch on the Site Landscape and Lighting Plan shows a 36 square foot sign, when framing is included. Accordingly, the size must be reduced.

h. Screening

The site has little natural vegetation, leaving the gas station facility potentially highly visible from all sides. As part of its site plan review, the Planning Board must ensure the “[a]dequacy, type and arrangement of trees, shrubs and other landscaping constituting a visual and/or noise buffer between the applicant's and adjoining lands.” § 232-21(J)(7). The project should be screened with native trees and plants on all sides of the project. The ability to do such screening should be facilitated when the driveway is removed from the setback as provided in the code

i. Lighting

The lighting plan for the site requires careful review to avoid bright, glaring light that would destroy the rural character of the area. The lighting standards in the zoning code cap the brightness of lighting at 5 footcandles. § 232-15(B)(12). However, the Site Landscape and Lighting Plan shows intensity up to 20 footcandles. Also, the light poles must comply with the requirements in section 232-15(B)(10), fourteen (14) feet in pedestrian areas and eighteen (18) feet in areas of vehicular use (parking lots and drive aisles). Further, the special requirements for canopies in section 232-15(D) must be applied, including: “All lighting from the canopy must be substantially confined to the ground area beneath the perimeter of the canopy.” The plans currently do not show a light contour model for the canopy lighting.

j. Sidewalks

The zoning code states: “Sidewalks should be encouraged in the hamlet districts.” § 232-11(H). This implements the Comprehensive Plan’s directive: “Make streetscape improvements like lighting, landscaping, sidewalks, pathways, gathering spaces, banners in downtown and hamlets whenever possible.” (VI)(G)(3)(c). The plan shows the location of a “future sidewalk.” This sidewalk, along with the connecting path to the front door, should be installed as part of the current site plan. Benefits include linking the store to the street, building connections to neighboring sites, creating a main street feel, and calming traffic. The sidewalk should also be enhanced with appropriate pedestrian infrastructure, such as pedestrian-level lighting, benches, shade trees, and other landscaping.

Next steps

These comments represent an initial review by Save Craryville given the documents available. We intend to comment further as more details and explanation come through the public hearing. We expects the Planning Board’s careful attention to the many impacts this substantial proposal could have on the Craryville hamlet.

We reiterate our request that the Planning Board require a Visual Impact Report to fully analyze visual impacts. Code § 232-21(H)(3)(c). In addition, a revised Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan will be necessary to evaluate the new layout of the site. Code § 232-21(H)(3)(d). A groundwater impact analysis is also advisable considering the location of the site over a mapped aquifer, and the prior use of the property. Code § 232- 21(H)(3)(a).

Thank you for your consideration, and please contact me with any questions.


David Gordon

Save Craryville