Milan town board looking to ease highway zoning codes

Proposed changes would allow larger stores, drive-thrus

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Milan town officials are proposing three changes to the town zoning code that would pave the way for new businesses along Route 199.

The changes would make it easier for a convenience store to open in what is known as the highway business district, running along Route 199, and would loosen town parking standards that currently ban cars in front of new stores in the district.

Two of the amendments were proposed by the Milan planning board, which has been reviewing zoning code because of two gas station-convenience store projects now going through the planning process. One project is the revival of the Mobil gas station just off the Taconic Parkway; the other is for a new Sunoco station just down the road from there.

The first change would increase the maximum square footage of a convenience store from 2,500 to 4,000. According to Supervisor Bill Gallagher, the planning board has studied similar zoning in other towns and concluded that Milan should increase its square footage allowance to be closer to what other towns permit.

A second amendment would limit the location of drive-thru operations in the town. Councilman Jack Campisi explained the situation to the town board at its Jan. 21 meeting this way: “Our present law provides for drive-in business, excluding drive-in outdoor theater… The only thing that isn’t in the law is where you can have it in the town.”

Campisi proposed that a drive-thru would be a “special permitted use” to be allowed “in the highway business [district] only.” An applicant would undergo a review and approval process by the planning board, Campisi said, adding, “There is no obligation on the part of the planning board to grant it.”

The third change, proposed by Councilman Jack Grumet, would amend what he termed “overly prohibitive” parking standards. Currently, parking in front of new stores or other new establishments is prohibited and all parking spaces must be “screened from the public right-of-way by low walls, fences, or hedges.”

“[Parking in front is] a fairly typical setup,” Grumet said. “But in our town, we don’t allow it and I think it’s definitely a detriment to current businesses that are applying… and future
businesses.”

The board discussed current practices in the highway business district and noted that the parking law is not being enforced anyway, noting the Enigma dance hall and Another Fork in the Road diner.

“I like the idea of eliminating an obstacle,” Councilwoman Marion Mathison said.

No other parking standards, such as setback requirements, will be altered at this time.
A public hearing on the three changes will be scheduled in the near future, followed by a required state environmental quality review (SEQR), and then a final vote on the
changes.

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