Surveyor Patti Brooks has presented a conceptual plan for a 4 story, 90 bed hotel on Mack’s Lane before the Lloyd Planing Board. It appears this is in addition to a proposal she recently pitched to the Planning Board on behalf of developer Sami Jamal: a mixed use building of 16,000 sq/ft of a 1st floor convenience store including up to 4,000 sq/ft, four island gas station facility with 2nd floor residential housing. Jamal, is also seeking to build a two-story professional office building with 9,600 sq/ft of office space with a 4,800 sq/ft footprint as part of this project.
Board member Sal Cuciti has only seen one site plan layout map.
“It’s there more information on elevations, utility lines and other things like that?” he asked. Brooks said she was looking for a nod from the board on the layout, “before we go ahead and do any other design work.”
When Cuciti touched upon future development on the northeast corner of the site behind Walgreens, Brooks then brought forth the preliminary plan for a hotel on the site.
Brooks acknowledged that a 4 story building is not allowed by the code, “but the applicant would like the opportunity to discuss that with the board.” She said she was unable to access the new zoning regulations of the Highway Business District [HBD] but would like to vet the hotel plan against the new zoning, “to see if there have been any changes, but we felt it necessary that we should to come to the Planning Board first and answer any glaring questions or address any glaring concerns that the board has upfront before we go ahead and develop an entire site plan [only] to have the board come back and say these are the three things we don’t like at all.”
Brooks has submitted all of the cross easements and agreements that were made on the entire parcel back in 2008, including the proposed hotel area, when the RiteAid (now Walgreens) store was discussed and reviewed as a comprehensive, ultimate site plan development.
The board is also looking at parking and foot traffic in the mixed-use and office areas of the overall proposal.
Cuciti pressed town land use attorney Paul Van Cott on how the Planning Board can evaluate the environmental and developmental impacts of the mixed-use/office area proposal while knowing there is a potential area for a possible four-story hotel.
“I don’t know that you can; I don’t think things are crystallized enough at this point for any characterization of what the SEQRA [State Environmental Quality Review Act] action is, I think it’s wholly premature,” he said. “What you’re providing in terms of feedback on the proposed development [at] the conceptual level, I think that’s fine. I would not advise the board to go too much further without knowing what’s going to happen on the back portion of that property.”
Van Cott said the height standard in the Highway Business District is 35 feet or 2 ½ stories, pointing out that a 4 story hotel could be more than 42 feet in height.
“So if you have a four story building that you’re looking at, then the question for your client Patti [Brooks] is pretty clear: Do they want to go seek a variance for height or do we want to do a 2 story building or is this so speculative at this point that he [developer] is not going to do anything. I think the Planning Board needs to know those answers before it goes too much further with this review.”
Developer Jamal said he believes the town needs a 4 story hotel like he is proposing as opposed to 1 and 2 story hotels that now exist in the area. Brooks said, “the question tonight is how the Planning Board feels about us applying to the Zoning Board of Appeals and obviously they would be consulted for your competence...This is a four story building and that basically is what any flag hotel requires.” A flag hotel is generally owned by a large corporation like Hyatt and Hilton. The board was told that 90 beds is what is needed by the developer to make the project economically viable and no flag hotel would even consider a 1 or 2 story building.
Due to 90 beds, board member Franco Zani believes Brooks would have to consult with the water and sewer committee, “because you could have a problem, I think.”
Town Engineer Andrew Learn said when a feasibility study was done on this site in the past the idea for a hotel was included.
“So depending on the number of rooms and what we assume, we may be OK,” he said.
Cuciti objected to the gas pump component of the overall project, saying it, “sticks out like a sore thumb for me.” He pointed out that the town already has quite a number of gas stations and one is being proposed directly across Route 9W as part of a proposed Stewart’s Shop.
“It seems like it would be a nicer project if you had a hotel and a professional building and even residential without a gas station,” he said. “That seems to me the sore point in this proposal.”
Jamal said if he can get approval for the 4 story hotel and find upscale business tenants like Starbucks and others for the 16,000 sq/ft of space, then he would consider eliminating the gas pumps but, “it all depends on how the whole project can make sense for us economically.”
Planning Board Chairman Scott McCarthy told Jamal that the board appreciates seeing his conceptual plans and acknowledged that two projects now face the board – the mixed-use/office complex and a 4 story hotel. McCarthy said the hotel plans would need to go to the Zoning Board for a variance to build higher than the 35 foot code stipulation. He noted that Jamal would need to submit an application and detailed plans for the hotel that the Planning Board could review.
“There is not much that we can say to you at this point about that hotel,” he said.
Brooks said she and her client came to the Planning Board, “before even approaching the Zoning Board to get some kind of sense from the Planning Board on whether this is something they could get behind and make a positive recommendation to the Zoning Board.”
McCarthy said the Planning Board needs some time to review the materials for the entire proposed project.
Cuciti said Highland could use a nice hotel, “but I am a little worried about all of these combined being too intensive on the site and there being too big a blob of development around that big parking area.”
Engineer Learn pointed out that the Highway Business District caps development at 40% of the property and that plans Brooks has submitted for the mixed-use project state 26%. He asked if that percentage includes the portion of the site for a hotel. Brooks responded by saying, “That’s a good question,” with Learn pointing out that this calculation might have a limiting effect on the project.