By RICK REMSNYDER
The Plattekill Zoning Board of Appeals postponed voting on five variances for a controversial new convenience store and gas station to replace the vacant Plattekill Corners General Store at its Feb. 24 meeting.
ZBA chairman Lawrence Lindenauer said the panel is waiting for feedback from the Ulster County Planning Board before considering the variances to the store and gas station proposed by Newburgh Fuel Distributor Inc.
The public hearing on the project’s variances will remain open for a third time for input at 7 p.m. on March 24 and the board could vote on the variances afterward, pending county planning board feedback.
In response to a question from town resident Ellen Kennedy about traffic congestion at the site at the ZBA public hearing on Jan. 27, Lindenauer said the Town Planning Board will also have the opportunity look at that issue and said more traffic studies may have to be done. If the ZBA approves the five variances for the project, the town planning board could vote on it after holding a public hearing.
Following the most recent ZBA public hearing on the proposed gas station and convenience store Thursday, Lindenauer said he is hopeful the county planning board will weigh in on the project soon so it can be considered again at the March 24 ZBA meeting.
“We hope to hear from them and have adequate time to review it so the March 24 meeting can continue the hearing,” he said.
During the continuation of the most recent public hearing, Plattekill town historian Libby Werlau voiced her concerns over access to a town cemetery that borders the proposed project. The cemetery dates back to 1793, making it one of the oldest cemeteries in Ulster County.
“My concern is that the cemetery is taken into consideration,” said Werlau, who provided some historic background about the cemetery to the ZBA. “Having an opening large enough for anyone to access it and for the town to get the equipment in to maintain it.”
Werlau added that “it’s very possible that there could be graves that are exposed during this (construction) process because we’re not sure exactly where the original lines to the cemetery were.”
Werlau said there are more than 200 people buried at the graveyard and most graves are unmarked. She said the town highway department mistakenly unearthed some graves behind the store when they did some cleanup work at the cemetery in 2004.
“So there’s a potential for that happening with this project,” she told the ZBA. “I just wanted to make everyone aware of that. Hopefully, we can all work together to resolve this.”
Werlau turned over a map of the property and the bordering cemetery to the ZBA and representatives of the Newburgh firm that is seeking to build the gas station and convenience store.
Federico Crispino, who lives near the former Plattekill Corners General Store on Huckleberry Turnpike, felt a gas station shouldn’t be allowed so close to several Plattekill residences.
“A gas station is going to draw a lot of unnecessary traffic there with people going in and out,” he told the Southern Ulster Times in an interview following his statement to the ZBA.
“Benzene, which is a product of gasoline, is a carcinogenic of seven different types of cancer. A home should not be within 500 feet of a gas station and there are houses closer than 500 feet. Even though they’ll probably have new buried tanks, there’s always the potential for leakage.”
While letting him complete his statement, Lindenauer told Crispino that his comments would be more appropriate for the Town Planning Board since the ZBA is only considering variances for the project.
Crispino said afterward that he would press his complaints when the project goes back to the Planning Board.
An online petition that seeks to preserve the Plattekill Corners General Store located at the intersection of Plattekill Ardonia Road (Route 32) and Huckleberry Turnpike has collected over 25,000 signatures.
In other news, representatives of Obstacle Wonderland on New Unionville Road appeared before the ZBA to discuss an area variance. A public hearing on their requests will be scheduled for a later date.
On its website, Obstacle Wonderland says participants can engage in outdoor workouts “carrying heavy sandbags, climbing ropes, crawling and running through mud, throwing spears, flipping tires, carrying buckets and more. Our location has 30 plus epic obstacles that offer an awesome challenge for beginners and elite OCR (obstacle course racing) athletes alike.”