Used car application reaches RH planners

Having successfully received an interpretation from the Red Hook Zoning Board of Appeals last month to allow used car businesses in the town’s traditional neighborhood district, Patrick Sheehan has taken the next step towards opening his business.

Sheehan and his brother-in-law, attorney Wayne Graff, appeared before the Red Hook Planning Board June 4 to discuss how or if his new business at the NAPA/Powers Auto Parts facility will fit into the new zoning district, which runs from Conway’s up to Rhinebeck Bank and was envisioned as a traditional village shopping district on Route 9.

The plan they submitted to the board shows 12 cars on display in the lot near the sidewalk, customer parking for the used car business along the south side of the lot closer to the building and a small office inside the existing building, with no other changes.

As part of any application, the plans submitted are reviewed for zoning conformance or omissions by the town’s planner, Greenplan. Planning Board Chair Christine Kane read from the Greenplan letter regarding one of the most obvious issues facing a used car business in this district.

“In the TND commercial center, parking is required to be located to the side or rear of the principal building and, if to the side, set back a minimum of 20 feet from the building’s front facade,” said Kane reading from the Greenplan memo.

Sheehan responded that the pre-existing conditions should exempt him from that requirement. However, the law was meant to grandfather in pre-existing businesses and buildings but does not exempt new or expanding businesses.

“Site plan review provides the opportunity to bring things into compliance when the property is changing hands or uses… Since [the last site plan review], there has been a change in the zoning. This is the opportunity to upgrade the parcel to the [new] zoning requirements,” Kane said.

Following suggestions that the front of the property be made more compatible with pedestrian traffic, given that the zoning was designed to create a walkable village-like district, Sheehan made it clear that that option was not on the table.

“I am a subtenant. I have no intention of changing lighting or landscaping,” he said. An applicant’s status as an owner or tenant is not a consideration in the zoning law.

Sheehan and his attorney stated repeatedly that the NAPA site is not compatible with running a used car business while operating within the new zoning rules.

“This law… you can’t make it work here,” said Graff. “There is no side accesses that we’re dealing with. The building is where it is. The bituminous parking area and the landscaping are where they are.” Frustrated with the suggested changes to the site to bring it closer to the zoning, Sheehan minced no words about the new Traditional Neighborhood zoning.

“What you have is boilerplate that was mimeographed from studies out of Syracuse that put this zone in,” Sheehan said. “It is inappropriate given what’s there.”

In the end, the planning board agreed to a site visit at a time when Sheehan will arrange to have cars placed on the lot.

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