Red Hook village eyes new drive-thru law

Public hearing on architectural guidelines gets few comments

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At a workshop meeting on Nov. 21 on new planning guides, the Red Hook village board discussed future zoning changes, including a drive-thru option.

Until now, village zoning restricts drive-thru windows to financial institutions only. Over the summer, as CVS expressed interest in the former IGA property, the corporation also pushed for a drive-thru, and at the time, village officials said it would not be allowed.

In order to reach a consensus on adding the drive-thru option to any proposed zoning changes, Mayor Ed Blundell polled the board during the workshop and four of the five board members voted for the concept of a drive-thru window with restrictions. Deputy Mayor Brent Kovalchik voted against it.

He told the Observer that he feels drive-thrus are not appropriate for the village, noting, “Drive-thru businesses are the antithesis of a walkable, pedestrian-oriented community.”

The restrictions discussed by the board would include: drive-thrus only on a parcel that is 1.5 acres or more; no corporate fast-food presence; no remote talking box, and no flat roof extension with posts or stanchions. In addition, a window with an awning was suggested.

The proposed changes would be part of the zoning changes that were promised in September as a product of a six-month moratorium on site plan review. The changes are still being finalized by the board and will need a public hearing, which has been set for Jan. 13.

Meanwhile, a public hearing was held at the Nov. 21 meeting to gather comments about including a pattern book of architectural guidelines into the village’s comprehensive plan. The illustrated book, called “Pattern Book and Architectural Guidelines for Red Hook,” was released to the public in May.

According to Blundell, the guidelines will point architects, builders and village residents in the direction of diversity and unity in future village projects and help the village conform to the town’s Traditional Neighborhood District regulations.

“We are the center for the town’s ‘green space’ concept,” said Blundell. “But we’re not in sync with it yet.”

At the public hearing, Blundell said, “This meeting essentially sets the stage for having the changes inserted” into the comprehensive plan.

Red Hook resident Barbara Shoenmaker expressed her concern about vegetation in the village and the town impeding the line of sight for drivers. “There are places in our area where the vegetation needs to be trimmed back,” she said.

Kovalchik agreed, adding there is a line-of-sight setback for structures in the plan, but no line of sight for vegetation.

“That’s something you could put under your site plan standards,” said Special Counsel for Zoning Victoria Polidoro.

Resident Jane Diamond was concerned about the Pattern Book’s recommendations for additions to homes. Because she lives in an old house in the village, she wanted to know if these recommendations will become laws.

Kovalchik explained that these are only guidelines and not laws.

The pattern book was funded by grants from the Hudson Valley Greenway; the New York State Council of the Arts and Furthermore, a program of the J.M. Kaplan fund. It was commissioned two years ago as an effort to amend the village’s comprehensive plan, which hasn’t been changed since its adoption in the early 1970’s; while the zoning code hasn’t changed since the 1990’s.

According to Blundell, the Pattern book will guide upcoming zoning changes, which will include reducing setback construction by placing parking in the rear or to the side of any future development. Other changes Blundell said the board has discussed include electric vehicle charging stations and bicycle parking in any new parking lots, as well as the possible expansion of drive-thrus with restrictions.

The book is also a guide on how to keep the historical look of the village intact. “The board feels that streetscaping and walkability are important elements to counter the weaknesses you see north on Route 9,” Blundell said. “We want to change the zoning to avoid the ‘mall’ look in any future plans.”

The board agreed to refine the wording in the zoning changes and weigh additions to the Pattern Book further before their regular monthly meeting, which is Dec. 9 (postponed from Dec. 2). The board is hoping to pass a local law based on the zoning after the public hearing Jan.13.

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