Design questions for Southern Realty Development’s proposed supermarket
NORTH EAST — The Planning Board meeting of Wednesday, Nov. 30, dealt with two supermarket applications — one for the still unidentified supermarket behind Thompson Plaza on Route 44 and one for Freshtown, which is hoping to take over the Grand Union in the Millerton Square plaza, also on Route 44.
The board first heard from Southern Realty Development LLC (SRD), which has not yet revealed the name of the supermarket that would occupy the 36,000-square-foot building planned for the 10-acre site behind Thompson Plaza. SRD engineer Rich Rennia was at the Nov. 30 meeting to talk about how the project is progressing and review the details requested by the Planning Board thus far.
Parking lot issues
Rennia said he prepared two alternative plans for the parking area for the board to review. One created more of an island, at the loss of four parking spaces. The other boxed in the curb with a slightly wider island. Trees and other landscaping could fit in both islands, the engineer confirmed.
Planning Board member Chip Barrett asked if another island could fit in the lot; Rennia said one could, but it would be at the loss of eight more parking spaces.
Planning Board Chairman Dale Culver said his preference was for the first option.
“Option one seems better in traffic movement,” he said. “I don’t like dead-end parking lots, and the original complaint was that one of the islands was too small.”
The rest of the board was in agreement that option one was better.
Rennia added that he may be able to squeeze out four or five additional parking spaces. He also noted that a 25,000-gallon fire suppression tank would be buried under the loading zone.
Planning Board member Bill Kish then raised questions about trees.
“I noticed some trees along the split-rail fence line; I was wondering what kind?” he asked.
“Grey birch,” replied Rennia. “The go well with ... our retention [plans] and get up to 30 feet.”
“Are there evergreens in front?” Kish asked.
“No,” replied Rennia.
“I’m always interested in seeing something that works in winter,” said Kish.
“That’s one thing with the split-rail fence,” Rennia said. “You won’t see a sea of cars.”
Kish then recommended some evergreens be staggered between the grey birches so it’s not bare in the winter. SRD representative John Joseph noted the building is “very far back from the road” and that whatever the landscaping is should be “height appropriate.”
Town Engineer Ray Jurkowski then steered the conversation to the building’s architecture, which the board had discussed at its previous meeting.
“My opinion of the building, for what it’s worth, is it’s not a bad-looking building,” said Ray Nelson, SRD’s architect. “It’s a big box. How do you design a big box?”
“That’s why you’re here,” said Planning Board member Leslie Farhangi.
“If you look at it as a single piece, the scale is proportional,” Nelson said. “There isn’t any big expanses. As a mass study, I would say it’s not too bad. It’s a big box, and to bring it down to a single use is pretty tough.”
Culver asked Nelson if he understood the board’s concerns.
“If you and Ray [Jurkowski] didn’t synch up from our last conversation [you should],” he said. “Do you want us to sum it up?”
“Our major concern was how linear the building was — it’s a massive building,” Jurkowski said. “The objective of the Planning Board is we would like to see those components broken up by smaller gables, maybe so they don’t have to be so massive.
“Gables were mentioned, a cupola was also brought up,” he added. “We are quite concerned with the way the canopy looked. It’s very straight and very long.”
“It’s also a blank wall,” said Town Planner Will Agresta. “The islands have low shrubs. If you get some trees it would help soften up the sides and give it some height, and help reduce the horizontal line.”
“In the final synopsis, anything that would make that building look like a couple of buildings and break it up from one long run [would help],” Culver said.
“We would like it to fit with the architecture of the town,” Farhangi said, adding Nelson can turn to the Salisbury Bank and Trust building or the North East Muffler barn-like building for inspiration.
“The linear canopy is less bothersome to me than the very bulky corners,” Kish said. “They are very, very stark and really makes this look like a box.”
Barrett recommended using pilasters and other trim work to help dress up the building. Planning Board member Dave Shapiro said trees could be added to the corners of the building to soften the edges. Culver added the roofing could be “jogged” so it’s not all one level.
“Ray, you’ve got your work cut out for you,” said Joseph once the board closed the design discussion.
The talk then moved on to details about the storm water pollution prevention plan and other technical comments. Certain tests are required, as are details for the bio-retention plan. After those issues, as well as some other details, are addressed, the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) process can move forward.
The Planning Board did vote to become the lead agency in the supermarket’s environmental review process. It did so with unanimous support. The next step for the board is to make a determination of significance, which will determine whether the project will have a negative impact on the environment.
A public hearing was held on the application at the Planning Board meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 14. No one from the public participated during the hearing.
Planning Board Attorney Warren Replansky read a letter at the hearing. That letter related to the need for a zoning variance for a small portion of land with a different delineation that will affect the application. The letter stated the applicant could apply for a variance with the Zoning Board of Appeals, ask the Town Board to create a law stating a variance is not necessary or request a waiver for the variance. The letter suggested the applicant pursue seeking the waiver.
The public hearing was continued; it will likely be closed this month.