RH used car application sent back to the drawing board

Patrick Sheehan and his attorney returned to the Red Hook Planning Board last week to continue discussing his plan for a used car business on the site of the Powers Auto Supply/NAPA on South Broadway (Route 9).

Under his plan, the new business, Patrick Motors, would operate out of a small office space sublet from the current tenant, and he would have 12 cars for sale or rent that would be displayed in the large parking lot in front of the building and close to the sidewalk.

Sheehan’s last visit to the planners on June 4 ended with the board agreeing to a site visit to get an idea of what 12 cars on display would look like.

At the July 12 meeting, he got an unexpected answer: the cars can be displayed but to conform to the district zoning, they must be removed each night.

Sheehan had originally received a favorable interpretation from the Red Hook Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), which in effect opened the door for car sales and rental anywhere in the Traditional Neighborhood District (TND) Commercial Center (CC), not just at his proposed location. The TND-CC covers both sides of Route 9 from Conway’s Lawn Equipment up to the town/village border at Rhinebeck Bank.

But the planners now told Sheehan that all new businesses and projects in the TND-CC have to keep their parking area to the side and rear of the building.

The board’s expert planning consultant, Michele Greig of Greenplan, was on hand for the July 12 meeting. “You can’t have permanent display in the TND. It’s only allowed to be temporary. It has to come in every night; it’s only allowed to be for 30 days….” said Greig, pointing out that the proposed car lot would be permanent and must be considered parking. “The point is, you can have this business. It’s just that the parking has to be to the side and rear of the building.”

The requirement did not sit well with Sheehan or his attorney Wayne Graff, who have argued that the lot was used to sell cars in the past and therefore should be approved to do so now.

“When a building is set 100 feet back from the property line… you’re putting a burden on the property that makes it very difficult…. It’s just simply not viable to locate all these vehicles 20 feet behind the building when the building is set halfway back in the lot,” Sheehan said.
“But nobody forced them to sublet this section of the building. This is a voluntary act on your part and on their part,” replied planning board member Sam Phelan.

The planning board made repeated reference to the design of the Ruge’s Subaru dealership in Rhinebeck and to Hudson Valley Motorcar further down Route 9 in Red Hook as examples of what is considered desirable by the zoning code. Both have their cars parked primarily to the side and rear of their buildings, but both also have buildings close to the curb.

“The intent of the TND district is for in-fill development, pedestrian-oriented, to develop less of a strip look and more of a village look,” said Christine Kane, the planning board chair. In-fill development would suggest the construction of buildings in the front of lots with large empty areas, like the NAPA parking lot.

Sheehan was then urged to submit a new plan that would be consistent with the zoning law.

“The planning board cannot approve a project that’s inconsistent with the zoning law. They just can’t do it,” said Greig. “Every applicant that comes before the planning board is required to present a plan that conforms to the zoning law.”

Sheehan and his attorney indicated they needed to consider their next step. Among the options they mentioned: contesting the requirements at the ZBA, taking the issue to court, moving forward with a new conforming plan.

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