In late September, Steve Lawrence, owner of the D & D Auto Supply Store, received Planning Board approval to build a 30’ x 120’ [3,600 sq/ft], 30 ft tall free-standing storage building on his property, located at the intersection of Rte. 9W and Woodside Place in Highland. The 0.67 acre parcel is within the General Business [GB] zone.
In May, Lawrence applied to the Zoning Board of Appeals [ZBA] for commercial Area Variances; one asking to cover 67 percent of the lot, instead of the code’s limit of 40 percent . This is a 27 percent increase in size. For a second variance, Lawrence sought a rear yard setback relief of 13’ 8” (actual 11’4”) where the code’s rear yard setback is 25 ft. The ZBA approved both requests.
Lloyd’s town code states that the Lloyd ZBA must be in accord with New York State Town Law 267-b.
To approve an Area Variance the Lloyd ZBA had to conduct a ‘Balance of Interests” test, which consists of five points. The first provision asks whether the “benefit can be achieved by other means feasible to applicant.” ZBA Chairman John Litts wrote (on behalf of the full board) that, “Lessening the size of the building would not be economically feasible.” The response contains no other written information on whether other “means feasible” were considered. In addition, as per the Town Code, a project’s economic viability is not a factor in the granting of an Area Variance, but it can be considered for a Use Variance. Lawrence, however, applied for an Area Variance.
On the Balance Test, the ZBA acknowledged that, “the “increase of 27 percent is large but the setback is not substantial due to the large highway [Rte. 9W] next to Woodside Place.” The Balance Test also stated that the building will have “no major impact” or be a “detriment” to the neighborhood.
There is no explanation in the Balance Test on why the ZBA reduced the setback relief from 25 feet to 11 feet 4 inches or why the ZBA granted the increase in lot coverage from 40% to 67% other than to state that the setback is not substantial due to the project’s proximity to Route 9W.
The Town Code in A107-10 (5) states that the, “findings of the [ZBA] Board and the supporting facts shall be spelled out in detail, regardless of whether it is based on evidence submitted or on the personal knowledge of the Board. The Board should show that it has made an intelligent review, considered all the information, heard all the parties, taken all evidence into account and made a personal inspection of the parcel in question and has ascertained certain findings from this examination.” There is no written evidence in the record that shows the ZBA conducted such a thorough and detailed review. In addition, when the ZBA approved the Area Variances last May, a representative of the Building Department and the Town’s Land Use Attorney were both present but made no mention of the above listed discrepancies.
At the Planning Board meeting of September 26, a public hearing was held on Lawrence’s application for his storage building. It opened with a discussion on comments that Robert Liebowitz, Principal Planner for the Ulster County Planning Board [UCPB], sent to the town in early September.
The UCPB asked that a visual rendering of the project be submitted to the Lloyd Planning Board in order to determine if the developer’s proposed five trees on the northwestern side of the building, “will minimize the visual impacts on the single family homes facing the proposed structure.” The UCPB stated that, “while the proposal is being set downhill [on] Woodside Place, the use of a landscaped berm in this location, in addition to trees, may be a more suitable alternative.”
The UCPB also made note that an existing multi-family structure on the site shares an access point with the D & D Auto store off of Route 9W, but that no easements were shown on the materials that were sent from the town. The county said an easement for access needs to be indicated on the final site plan.
The UCPB also pointed out that lighting details were absent from the materials that were provided by the town.
“Lighting levels will need to be calculated for the plan with levels not to exceed the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) Outdoor Site/International Dark Sky Association (IDSA) recommended illuminance levels. All luminaries are required to be LED and will need to meet the “fully shielded” definition adopted by the IDSA or be an approved fixture of IDSA with cut sheets provided.”
Lloyd Building Department Director Dave Barton summed up the required modifications from the UCPB to the Planning Board by saying, “I think the county overreached yet again.”
At the end of the evening the Planning Board approved the D & D site plan for the storage building. ZBA Chairman John Litts did not return a phone call to comment.