Tivoli residents turned out in force at a public hearing April 23 to oppose a proposed self-storage facility on Rt. 9G.
The Tivoli Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) is being asked to determine whether construction of the facility in the residential-business district along the 9G corridor would comply with existing zoning regulations. The Zoning Enforcement Officer has denied the application.
The request comes from Red Hook resident Jack Grumet, who said he purchased the parcel, on Rte. 9G one lot north of Rte 78/Broadway, primarily because of its location in an easily accessed commercial zone. However, a self-storage facility is not listed among the permitted principal uses in village code. So Grumet is asking the ZBA to categorize his project as “light industry,” a determination that could allow him to pursue a special permit from the village planning board.
At the ZBA public hearing in a packed village hall, Grumet presented his case. “First of all, I want everybody to understand that I live right in Red Hook and I’m a neighbor,” he said. “And in anything I do, I would take utmost care in making sure that it did not adversely affect the neighborhood and surrounding community.”
The zone is already characterized by a mix of residential and commercial uses, he said, and a self-storage facility could serve the needs of both the village and Bard College students.
In terms of visual impact on the area, he explained, the 1.7 acre proposed facility would have beige storage buildings with green roofs to blend into the surroundings and would be located at the rear of the property to better shield the view from Rte. 9G.
He also said he expected that traffic generated by the site, which would be landscaped and fenced, would be minimal. “According to my conversations with consultants,” he noted, “even a very large facility with four to five hundred units might only generate 10 visits a day.” His initial proposal calls for a total of 108 units, but he said he would look to expand if demand for space were high.
When the meeting was opened to comment, 23 residents spoke out against having the self-storage facility be considered an allowed use.
First to comment was George Smith, resident of an adjacent property. “Everyone along the road has a beautiful view of the mountains and this is not something that I want to look at. We all know what a storage unit looks like….and it would heavily affect the resale value of all the properties in the area,” he said. He added that the area, which contains a view of the Tivoli water tower, is considered the gateway to the village and that the town has only just completed a land conservation project to maintain the character of Kerley Corners Road.
Tivoli Fire Chief Mark Hildebrand noted his concerns about the increase in traffic–and the danger that brings.
“I’d say that your target market is going to end up being Bard College students storing their furniture and dormitory or apartment stuff,” Hildebrand said, “meaning that in September and when the end of May comes, your traffic going in and out of that storage unit is going to be greatly increased.” Such a sudden traffic swell would outweigh the relatively light traffic at other times of the year in terms of danger at the intersection, he added.
“The magnitude of accidents turning into Tivoli just this year has been tremendous, and we have had a number of fatalities on that stretch,” he warned. “My main concern is the traffic danger.”
The impact of a self–storage facility on other local businesses was also discussed. “For over two decades, people of the Village of Tivoli have worked to improve this area,” said resident Alex Zane. “People have invested their money into businesses such as restaurants, masseuses, art galleries and other businesses that appeal to people who are affluent, who appreciate the attitude of a village that takes care of its buildings and has an aesthetic sensibility.”
He added that Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro used to refer to the 9G area as the “gateway to the community” when he was Tivoli mayor and that it would be unfortunate if people referred to Tivoli as “down past the self-storage place.”
Drawing on the experience of other communities, he noted, “Germantown along 9G has three convenience centers, and nobody goes into Germantown. It is hard to have a business in Germantown.”
Contacted via phone after the meeting, Tivoli Mayor Bryan Cranna said, “I think the gateway looks good as it is right now…. anything that would alter the gateway to the village would have a dramatic impact upon the village.”
The public comment at the meeting was not entirely negative. Todd Baright, a resident of Red Hook and the owner of several self-storage locations and rental properties, said he would be in favor of the proposal if done right. In a written statement, he argued that self-storage is low impact, buildings are low profile and can be set back and screened easily from neighbors and the road. And, he pointed out, such a use might be preferable to a gas station, which is already a permitted use at the location.
The Tivoli Village Code states that special permitted uses in the Residential-Business Zone may include “light industry, which does not usually constitute a fire hazard or emit smoke, glare, noise or dust or in other ways constitute a nuisance or be detrimental to neighboring properties.” The ZBA must, therefore, determine not only if self-storage is a light industry but if the operation of the facility would be a nuisance or detriment to the neighborhood.
Because of the language in the town code, even if the ZBA determined the use to be light industry, the volume or substance of residents’ complaints may be enough to convince the board that the facility would be considered a nuisance or detrimental to the community, which is legal grounds to deny the petition.
The ZBA will continue discussion on the issue at its May meeting. Even if approved, the self-storage business would still need a special permit from the planning board, which has broad powers to direct the size, shape and look of the facility.
Following the hearing, applicant Jack Grumet submitted the following to the Observer which appeared as a letter to the editor in the May 9 issue:
During the public hearing of April 16th objections were raised by the audience that I would like to address. A majority of the speakers were concerned about the visual impact that a self-storage facility might have along Route 9G and the Broadway entrance into town. This should not be an issue since the proposed facility would be almost entirely screened from Route 9G as well as Broadway by its location behind the existing two family home and former motel. Except for a modest sign, the proposed units would not be visible from the road. In addition, I intend to both fence and landscape the perimeters to further shield the business from my immediate neighbors. The entire facility would be gated with limited and specific business hours. Since self storage facilities generate very little traffic, any increase in cars along 9G would be insignificant when compared to other uses that are allowed in that zoning district (gas stations, retail stores, light industry).
I purchased the property approximately five years ago specifically because it was zoned commercial (R.B.). It is one of only nine lots in Tivoli that were purposely and specifically zoned for a mix of business and existing residential. To quote from the town zoning code “the district is designed with the intention of providing a section of the village to be specifically used for commercial establishments”; allowable uses consist of Light Industry, Service/Gas Stations, or Retail Service, among others. Currently the character of the neighborhood reflects that zoning with a mix of commercial and residential uses. There exists a car repair shop/trailer sales, restaurant bar, and taxi stand, all within a few blocks of the proposed self storage facility. Clearly another business would not change the character of the neighborhood and is in keeping with the spirit of the zoning district.
My initial intent was to construct either a self storage facility or a convenience gas station, since either use would mesh with the intent and spirit of the zoning district. My preference would be for the self storage facility, however, ironically enough, a gas station is an allowed use and wouldn’t need the approval of the Zoning Board of Appeals. This factor alone would make the whole process less burdensome and time consuming for me. When faced with the two alternatives, I would think that a self storage facility would have a much softer impact upon the 9G corridor.
I realize from listening to the public comments that some of my neighbors would prefer that nothing further is built on my property. They may not like or agree with the current zoning, but that does not mean that the current zoning should not be upheld. If you knowingly purchase a home in a “mixed-use” zone, then you should expect that a mixed use of business and residential will take place there. If you don’t want to live next door to a commercial business, then you should move to an area that is strictly residential.
I am more than willing to work with residents and town officials to address their concerns and to mitigate any possible problems. A self storage facility is a good fit for the business district along Route 9G. It meshes with the intent and spirit to which this zoning district was created. My feeling is that the overall impact on the town will be negligible, especially when you consider all the other higher impact businesses that the district would allow.
Once constructed, a self storage facility would provide additional tax revenue for the town, jobs for the community, and much needed storage space for area residents as well as local Bard students. My hope is that the town and residents would be willing to work with me to make this proposed business a reality.