Commons at Highland denied variance

By Mark Reynolds
Posted 7/1/20

The Lloyd Town Board denied a variance from the moratorium to the Commons at Highland development project, formerly known as the Views. The proposal is for two, mixed-use buildings, located on the …

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Commons at Highland denied variance

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The Lloyd Town Board denied a variance from the moratorium to the Commons at Highland development project, formerly known as the Views. The proposal is for two, mixed-use buildings, located on the southern side of town at 3725 Route 9W in the Highway Business District zone.

The two buildings would contain a total of 44 residential units in the upper two floors and approximately 20,000 sq/ft of retail/commercial space on the ground floors.

Land Use attorney Rob Stout noted that 85 residents in the area signed a petition asking that this project (and the nearby Assisted Living proposal) not be allowed to move to the Planning Board for site plan review until people can attend board meetings in person at town hall. The board, however, recently voted to move the Assisted Living facility forward to the Planning Board for site plan review.

Stout also noted that residents in the area are concerned about outstanding safety issues because of the additional traffic these projects will bring to the Route 9W, Chapel Hill Road and the Highland Hills neighborhood.

Concerning the Commons, Stout said the public stated that the project is too large for a small area; there is traffic congestion particularly in the morning; creating a two-way road on the slip lane [South Chapel Hill Rd] will lead to accidents; and that the original traffic study was performed on a holiday weekend.

Project attorney Alec Gladd described the proposal as “fully zoning compliant, meaning that no variances from the zoning board of appeals are required.” He said strict application of the moratorium, “imposes practical difficulties or extraordinary hardships on the project, compelling the requested relief.” He said the moratorium causes difficulties in obtaining financing, funding or investment in the project, the loss of the summer construction months and delays in commercial and tenant leasing. Gladd pointed out that the developer has already spent $950,000 in soft costs related to the project.

Gladd said the town’s proposed zoning changes would require a redesign of the project, which would add significant costs to the overall project. He noted that the green space shown on the plan is exactly 1.81 acres or 50.2% of the property. He also said their traffic plan received conditional approval from the county on June 16.

During the moratorium, engineers for the Commons scaled back their plan from 3 story buildings down to 2 stories but are keeping the same approximate footprint. They also lowered the total number of apartments from 44 to 22 units. It was noted that this scaled back plan results in 2.26 acres in landscaped and open space, which is 62.7% of the site.

Town attorney Rob Stout pointed out that the developer has not amended their waiver request from the moratorium for the scaled back plan but has kept the original request of two 3 story buildings with 44 apartments. The developer’s representatives said they are willing to take the scaled back plan to the Planning Board but Stout countered this by pointing out that this is not how the application was portrayed to the Town Board and is not the plan the public has been commenting on. He said the developer could submit a new waiver request for the scaled back project, which would be considered by the Town Board at a later date.

Andrew Villari, of Stonefield Engineering, said that the Ulster County Department of Public Works gave conditional approval for their traffic plan for this proposed project, specifically approving turning South Chapel Hill Road into a two way roadway. The public and the Town Board, however, have repeatedly pointed out that turning this roadway into two ways would result in serious head on collisions from cars coming south off of Route 9W onto the slip and those coming north up the roadway.

The board voted to close the public hearing on The Commons request for a waiver from the moratorium. The board then voted unanimously to deny the Commons a variance, stating that, “the project would not comply with the proposed amendments that are currently under consideration for the Highway Business District, which proposed amendments are under consideration by the Town Board in furtherance of the general purpose and intent of the moratorium. Because it does not meet the standards for granting a variance set forth in the moratorium, the applicant’s request for relief from the moratorium is denied.”

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